Merry Ellen Kirk – We Are the Dreamers (releases 10/23/15)
by Jennifer Brooke
On Friday, October 23rd, pop singer-songwriter Merry Ellen Kirk released her new album We Are the Dreamers, which was produced by Summer Sky Studios in Nashville, TN. This cohesive set of eleven whimsical songs, ten being Kirk’s originals, will immediately reel you in for an emotional roller coaster. Each track explores complex feelings with theatrical flare and pacing, while interesting pronunciation of some lyrics throughout really highlight her artistry. Heavy on synthesized sounds, her songs have a 1980s flavor that will have you French-cuffing your skinny jeans and trading in your flat iron for a crimper. As someone who was born in this great decade and came of age in the 1990s, I recognize influences in her vocals such as Sarah McLachlan and even Enya because of the way some of her songs are structured. All listeners will be able to relate to and identify with some, if not all, of her songs because Kirk engages with the human experience, packing universal emotions into expertly crafted tracks. An array of instruments and beautiful harmonies set the stage for an emotional performance starring her airy soprano melodies.
The curtains open for Act I with “Save Me,” where the listener experiences thirty full seconds of synthesized organ as an instrumental foundation upon which the song is built. Breathy vocals give way to mounting percussion that recedes to simple and deliberate piano chords as Kirk pleads for someone or something to come and save her, for something she can believe in and something to give her hope. The slow instrumentation underneath allows us to experience her anticipation right along with her. “Heart in Your Hands” offers the same optimistic vibe with playful strings, upbeat percussion and light background vocals. The song drops off abruptly at the end, and the music picks up again with the piano notes of “Be My Love,” which shares the same uplifting mood.
Kirk then covers “Time After Time, ” Cydni Lauper’s 1983 original. This great song choice parallels the overall 1980s flavor of the album. It seems to serve as a transitional song, maybe even as a bridge but certainly not as an intermission, so stay in your seats and enjoy the music.
Act II begins with “Ever After” and “Used to Think,” where the mood becomes more tender and heartfelt. Both songs are slower, ease up on the intense synthesized sounds and include more pretty and breathy vocals in Kirk’s higher registers. You can sense her yearning and desire.
Act III opens with “Lovers & Liars,” which is just the opposite of the previous tender tracks. The tone becomes a bit haunting and uncomfortable, with blistering lyrics about being both lovers and liars. “Rise Up Against” stays in the vain of more bitter emotions. Both songs speak heavily of fire and flames; the harsh sounds highlight the dark and desperate mood. It’s not my favorite portion of the album, but I understand that life gives us situations that warrant such emotions, and self-expression through art will allow us to overcome.
Act IV slows down the show with “Without You,” where violins illustrate the longing for someone we can’t live without, someone who is our oxygen, our breath of life. Someone who reminds us that we didn’t know we were lost until we’ve found him or her. With a similarly hopeful tone, “We Are the Dreamers” explores when a friend becomes a love, where boundaries blur and there is no longer any space between.
“How To Find the Way Back Home” is Kirk’s softest, most vulnerable song that she offers, a total curtain closer. It’s slow and soothing, like a lullaby. Soft piano notes and steady strings float her expressive voice through the melody. Whichever the way that the wind blows; whatever life brings us, there is always a way back home.
You can’t see me, Merry Ellen Kirk, but I’m standing and applauding, smiling at your achievement. I will always recognize your style, for you are a true artist. Thank you for sharing your music with the world so that we can enjoy it, too. Bravo!