Karen Crusher – Granite – Album Review
I’ve gotta watch myself on this one and do my best to keep my objectivity here! I had the privilege of having my first encounter with Karen Crusher somewhere back in March or February of earlier this year…if memory serves me correctly we worked with her on a bio write-up – but the point being that not only did I get to know a little of Karen’s music, I also got a chance to really get to know the personality in behind the music as I researched into her life to get the facts straight for the bio. What I discovered was a truly courageous song-writer, proud supporter of the LGBTQ community and all-around fantastic human being with a real genuine ability to communicate sincerely through music and plain ol’ conversation. I dig this lady…and I’m excited to hear how these latest tunes from Karen Crusher have come out and whether the music can match the likability I find in the person that makes it.
Diving hard into her indie-folk sound, Karen finds her groove quickly with a fierce performance right out of the gate on the stomping beat of “No Way Out.” Her acoustic guitar plays at a frantic pace to open the song and is quickly matched by a stomping kick-drum beat programmed into the mix for some added punch to drive the energy at the outset of Granite. What I’m really loving above all things…is the sheer determination, passion and strong emotions you can hear through Karen’s voice; she has really kicked it up a notch in confidence and I’m loving the inventive ways of which she’s going after the vocals on “No Way Out.”
If anything…what kinda kills me a little bit, is that with a spread of diverse melodies, tempos and rhythms that you’ll find on Granite, that Karen put “Wifi” as the second cut on the album…hold on, lemme explain!
You see…here’s the thing…first of all – I absolutely LOVE “Wifi.” On a sheer personal level, I actually like it much more than the opening tune “No Way Out;” they’re both great songs I just prefer the melodic style of “Wifi,” which is why it kills me that this up-tempo indie-folk-pop GEM has such a similar beat in both sound and style! What Karen is doing on the chorus of this song is so absolutely beautiful that it’s damn near indescribable, she’s nailing the verse as well…but dear readers…what can I say other than it’s a sound in a melody like this that truly makes me incredibly proud to be one of the lucky people out there uncovering amazing independent music like this. The vocals are sweet enough to crush candy and Karen has sprung from a darker opening in “No Way Out” into the bold, bright and beautiful with “Wifi” – so WHAT if I think the similar pace & beat might have made it work better in a different order on Granite? If it’s between that and not having the song, there’s no way I’d ever leave “Wifi” off the album…this sweet love song is a must have completely and whatever order I might think it should be in can go to hell as long as I get the song!
Crusher is cruising through the beginning of Granite; as much as I loved “Wifi,” I was blown away to find I was potentially an even bigger fan of the following track “Something More.” I’m stunned by the melodies she’s discovered within the music of this song and her voice…the lyrics are some of the best I’ve heard from her with repeating lines that add such an incredible effect to the emotion she’s putting into the words. She’s got the stomping kick in place firmly – clearly a staple of Crusher’s music and no doubt essential to her pulling off these sparkling melodies in a live setting when on her own.
“Cold” sees Karen return somewhat to the more melancholy style of Granite’s opening. It definitely still has hooks, still has strong emotions running through it, but also audibly one of the tougher ones Karen wrote for herself in terms of the vocals. Overall…this would be a real tough judgement call while in the studio I think…personally I’m hearing 95% perfection here and 5% or less that might have benefitted from some of the additional harmonies she’s cleverly added in throughout “Wifi” and “Something More.” “Cold” has Karen very much alone and on her own both through the performance and the lyrics…everything is exposed; I think she’s displayed the courage and confidence necessary to make these hooks and rhythms work – just the fine tuning left to go and worrying about whether or not to go after 100% studio-production-perfection or a more real, honest & organic sound.
When I hear her sing “From What I See,” it doesn’t take anything more than this moment to know that for me, I wouldn’t have her sounding any other way than the sweet, authentic melodies that come straight from her heart and out of the strings. Another completely gorgeous melody – Crusher completely needs to clone herself so that she can be the one to harmonize along with herself when playing live…the way that she’s done this throughout Granite has been nothing short of breathtaking.
Definitely not saying she doesn’t have memorable moments when she’s on her own – she certainly does. Title-track “Granite” really allows her to shine brightly with beautiful vocals that drift sweetly right into the music into a dreamy ending and perfect set-up for the bright melody of “The Target” to follow. If I was to make a comparison for the overall sound of the album and in particular this song, I’d have to go with something like Sarah Harmer-meets-Ben Gibbard. Her melodies are sweet and gentle like Ben’s and lyrically inventive like Harmer – and the mix of these two elements is really working well for Crusher on Granite; she should be proud of the performances she’s put onto this album. “The Target” weaves through intelligent lyrics and gigantic words woven together perfectly revealing the emotion and details in the personal tale told in this tune. Some of this song is truly heartbreaking…and Karen is nailing the delivery in a way that takes you there and makes you really FEEL it.
I really dig on the nearly Zeppelin-esque opening to the guitar on “Wanderlust.” For such an isolated melancholy sound, much of this song is quite empowering through the lyrics and haunting all at the same time. While much of the album has seen a real spotlight shine on Crusher’s vocals, “Wanderlust” takes a moment to really let the guitar tones bring you into the atmosphere and really hold your attention firmly through this minimalist approach that leads to one of the most captivating moods displayed on Granite.
As Karen Crusher says “Goodbye” on her final track of nine, she takes a clever last departure through her performance akin to something like Alanis Morissette might come up with. Bending words and verses into complex combinations creating a truly poetic ending to her album, Karen has really put a large dose of confidence and has emerged as an extremely solid performer you can rely on through the music on Granite.
To wrap this up I’ll just say it plainly for you all and finish this off with one of those real ‘full-circle’ type endings… I mentioned at the beginning of the article just how much I WANTED to support Karen…that really I had the best of hope for the music I’d find on Granite…but what I can tell you here at the end of the article now that I’ve listened to the full album several times…is just how EASY it is to support music that comes out as authentically passionate as Karen has on her brand-new album. I would have had to support whomever would have written songs like these and sent them my way – it just so happens this time those songs are attached to a truly fantastic human being & extremely capable song-writer I’m proud to know and have truly heard.
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