On her debut album, Out of the Shadows, Callie Hopper hits all of the marks of a talented young songstress taking her wares to Nashville. The EP contains tight, delicate and refined pop sensibilities, underwritten by strong currents of indie-country and an innate sense of optimism that bubbles up, track after track.
Hopper threads a gentle needle between lite-country, soft-pop and adult contemporary offerings. With deft hands maintaining tight production values, Out of the Shadows features a litany of vocally driven, similarly paced songs featuring backing instrumentation that varies a bit between the tracks. One song after another wafts forth—saccharine and swift, the vocals wonderfully predominate, managing both plateaus and platitudes as the lyrics swirls and swivel to encourage the listener. While the songs adhere to a general structure, they delight in the acrobatics Hooper is able to achieve.
The song “So Much” stands out as a track that finds the band stuttering—stopping and starting—to keep up with Hopper's impressive vocals. The band's restraint pays off by leaving more space open for a commanding vocalist: she weaves back and forth on the shaking stage constructed by the stable and apt backing musicians. The song drives ceaselessly forward and contains a degree of intent lacking elsewhere on the album.
Vocal chops aside, the album feels a bit overstuffed with 14 similar tracks. Hopper excels at every opportunity she has, but the album as a whole feels leaden with overreach. Beyond a collection of flawless, forgettable songs, the EP showcases a handful of clever vocal lines and some imaginative chord progressions. One can't help but wonder how the EP would stand up if it were distilled down just a little bit.
It's no surprise, then, that some of the strongest tracks are those in which Hopper shares the mic with her co-writer, producer and, at times collaborator, Chad Alexander. While the two songs they do share may exhibit the same degree of smiling triteness as the rest of the album, but the duality they showcase proves effective. Between the spaced created by shared male and female vocals, a niche is found for the instrumentation to actually shine. The stringed instruments pluck away in an endearing fashion, the piano resonates more consequentially between well-wrought harmonies. While Alexander's voice may be evident in the superstructure of the album, it works best when it's heard aloud, aside Hoper's.
Ultimately, Out of the Shadow is a perfectly pleasant indie-country romp that finds the talented Miss Hopper crooning through love and loss with a smile and sense of upbeat optimism.
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