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Album Review

AMELIA JAY
Like a Kite

The next time someone mentions to me that there is no good music out there these days, I swear to God I will beat them senseless with their U2 collection. If the world ever stops coveting the obvious, they will find virtual warehouses stacked high with music which blows the obvious away and while I realize that is overstatement, it is my reality.

If you have any real love for music, it should be your reality as well. It is time to free that music from the constraint of apathy and in doing so, free the world. All right, that is definitely overstatement, but hear me out.

We are being buried by the media and the Net, as good a thing as it can be, is partially responsible. Pummeled day in and day out by clips and soundbytes at a furious pace, I am surprised that we are not all zombies or, at the very least, not experiencing blackouts from sensory overload on a regular basis. Finding a way in the midst of chaos is impossible, or so it seems, but I have a solution. I call it my one-step program. Your one step is to stop reading, right now, and click on the video provided. Oh, and come back here when you're done.

Ever heard of Hem? A couple of years ago, I discovered Funnel Cloud and was so overwhelmed that I spent hours scouring websites and messages on music forums to find out why I had not heard of them before, only to find out that I had. They were responsible for the music behind a TV commercial I actually liked. The track is titled Half Acre (from Rabbit Songs) and is behind a TV ad for Liberty Mutual Insurance. I loathe insurance companies (or anything corporate, for that matter), but found myself actively listening for the commercial, ready to run into the living room just to hear it better. It is a strikingly beautiful song and featured the exquisite voice of one Sally Ellyson, a wonderful voice presented not quite like any other I'd heard before. Clear but soft, it carries me away whenever I hear it.

Last week I was carried away again, this time by one Jeanette Beswick of Amelia Jay. While Jeanette Beswick's voice is slightly to the south and west of Sally Ellyson, it is equally beautiful. A little more textured, it too relies on the simple phrasing which makes Hem's music enchanting and Amelia Jay, thanks partially to that approach, places itself solidly alongside. If you have not heard Hem, please make the effort, but before you do, you owe it to yourself to hear Like a Kite. You don't even have to listen to the whole album. Listen to Fading Breath. If you're not completely sold on the album by the time Beswick sings her first round of “fading breath...”, you need go no further. I stick a fork in you. You're done.

The rest of you, however, are in for a treat. Not only do you get the superb voices of Mitch Dalton and Jeanette Beswick, you also get songs from the superb songwriting duo of Dalton and Beswick: ten prime examples why there is good music out there. From the first note of Song of a Sailor to the fadeout of Sun Dancing, the music floats and twists and echoes with melody and emotion to make the heart flutter. My personal favorites are 522 Jackson, thanks to Dalton's voice which soars spectrally over a chord progression of music magic; Bird Song (from which the album title is gleaned) and its uplifting chorus (who said rock music cannot be majestic?); and the aforementioned Fading Breath, a heart-stopping mixture of vocal emotion and sparse spellbinding piano.

While it in a way sucks to say this, I love it when talent wins out over obstacles. Like a Kite would be a gem if major labels had pumped big bucks into it, but Amelia Jay pulls it off on a shoestring. I'd like to say “Take that, Universal!,” but I'll settle for “Buy this record!” It takes time and money to produce something this good and these guys have rent to pay.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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