Image © Megan Slankard 2003
More Megan Slankard
Lady Is A Pirate
(02 February 2004) Megan Slankardís debut album
Lady Is A Pirate (2001), recorded at home when
she was 17, was a very fine album
Despite the simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar and bass,
Megan's extraordinary voice and varied, accomplished
songwriting maintained interest effortlessly over the album's
thirteen tracks. The songs had the feel of stripped-back rock
numbers rather than folksy female singer-songwriter, so it's
no surprise to find that for her second album Freaky Little
Story (MSB2386, 2003), Megan's gathered a band around
her. There is a certain danger in this.
A band can, as often as not, place a straightjacket around
the material of some of the more imaginative and individual
songwriters, but on this album, Megan's unique songwriting
hasn't been hindered in any way and the band proves very
sympathetic to the material while filling out the sound and
succeeding in making it more accessible to a wider audience
than its predecessor. Mike Hsieh plays electric guitars; Dave
Moffet handles the bass and Ian Stambaugh plays drums,
with Megan playing acoustic guitar. This time around the band
tracks were recorded at a professional ProTools studio, with
the vocals again being recorded at her home.
The new approach is stated boldly with the opening chord
of the opening track "Too Bad You." The whole band hit it!
The song's got a really fine chorus hook and the lyrics show
the same sense of subtle, sly humour that marked her debut.
"It's too bad you hate the way I laugh / you think it's phony /
but sometimes this can be so damn hilarious." Unsurprisingly,
her voice has matured a lot in the two years between albums.
There are not many who could sing the word 'pretentious' and
make it sound so damn sexy! Also, she seems to be far more
aware of her voice as an instrument and what it's capable of;
the range, tone and emotion of the vocals on this album is
"Mocking Bird" opens with voice and rhythmic, high-fret
acoustic guitar, the band joining in on the second verse. The
song has a lovely feel. It also contains some subtle scratching
and sampling (courtesy of Anthony Cole) which actually proves
a little distracting. It's a nice idea and worth trying, but I'm not
convinced that it adds anything to the song as a whole. In
contrast, the vocal harmonies do. "Dirty Wings" is another
with a great chorus hook and the band aren't afraid to pull
back for the verses, giving Megan's voice plenty of space. This
is followed by "Captain Madness," which contains even better
harmonies; the snare is maybe a little too aggressive in the
mix, especially in the intro, otherwise this is a gorgeous track
with a fine chorus, but an even better verse.
"Addy's Tattoo" is basically Megan with her acoustic guitar,
the depth being given by some plaintive cello (Sam Leachman).
Again there's some wonderfully effective vocal harmony. The
overall effect is utterly beautiful. A fabulous track. "Lose Me" is
another upbeat song with some fine lyrics. "Give Life" is musically
complex with a verse in 5:4 and the chorus in 6:8. It works
seamlessly and to great effect. "Forgive," and "Nearly Almost
Always Nearly Almost Anything," though very fine, perhaps
don't quite match up to the rest of the album. The former
has a good groove in the verse due to a terrific bass line,
but it doesn't seem to gel as a whole quite as well as the
other songs. The latter is accompanied by two acoustic
guitars (Mike Hsieh adding his to Megan's), but the song,
though very pretty, doesn't seem to be quite certain where
it's going. Possibly both these were written before Megan
had got the band together rather than being written with
the band in mind.
"Holding Off" opens with the lines "Pierre is walking
under a red umbrella / the clouds look like an animal."
Observational Surrealism (if it didnít exist before, it does
now!) "Whispers are spreading like miles of winter." ...
"Someoneís lonely saxophone strangles him with
a lone note." This is wonderful stuff; and there's another
great chorus to go with it all too.
"Itís All My Fault (But Iím Not Sorry)" also has a fine
chorus, there's a little echo of Alanis Morissette in this
song--as there is in the opening track--the octave leap
in the vocal. "Flying Backwards," is the most intimate
song on the CD performed as just Megan and her
acoustic guitar. In isolation, it's very, very effective
with a fine lyric, but it doesnít quite fit with the mood
and style of the album as a whole. The closing track
"The Freak Out Song," has a great rhythmic feel to it,
beautifully arranged--possibly inspired by Fiona Apple
and her producer Jon Brion--and there's a hidden track
too, so donít eject.
Megan Slankard is gifted with a wonderful and distinctive
voice together with a way of looking at the world that isn't
quite like anybody else's. On this CD she's successfully
managed to walk the fine line between originality and
commerciality, and that's a very rare trick indeed. She
wrote and arranged all the songs and, with Chris Holmes,
co-produced and co-mixed the album. She took the photos
of the boys in the band used in the artwork too.
Megan Slankard is a
unique talent and if she can maintain her individuality and
independence (heaven forbid any of the majors getting
their hands on her!) and just keep doing things in her
own way and in her own time then who knows what she
might be capable of. Great voice, great songs, great
album--and if thereís any justice in the world, a great