On her debut album the banshee, NYC art rock artist Case Watson delivers a mix of hard, bluesy burners and quiet pastoral pieces that aim to effect change. Utilizing a traditional rock band in addition to a string section, Watson’s album is a rollercoaster of emotional expression and sonic textures. Produced by rising star Willie Green, the synergy between the acoustic and electric, the heavy and the light perfectly encapsulates Watson’s message of surviving and thriving as “a little girl” in a world of chaos.
The banshee maintains lyrical focus on socio-political issues of modern day America such as war, feminism and the rise of demagogy. Watson juggles these heady topics with a nimble and evocative singing style that finds her transitioning on the driving baroque-pop rocker “Else.” The song contains an operatic falsetto and a stunning, full-throated chorus. Over the disparate elements contained in the banshee’s arrangements, Watson’s voice guides the listener and leaves an impact, definitive of her album’s musical quality and representative of this project’s concept of a woman’s voice being a powerful tool.
What will enthrall listeners at first blush is this album’s clever use of the string section. The album is sequenced in a way that the presence of these elements seemingly build over the first two tracks, until the fully orchestral “Balloons and Moons” lands softly as a lush and vibrant lullaby, reminiscent of the brilliant Kishi Bashi. Watson explores a similar flow on the album’s B-Side, traversing from the woozy and downtempo “For Me” to the aggressive prog-rock of “War Song”; and, finally, culminating with closing track “Vampire Sky” a folkloric and haunting ballad where Watson goes minimal with only a ukulele to back her.
As an artist, Case Watson is the epitome of the modern female singer/songwriter. She draws from the traditions of folk, rock, blues, indie and classical to craft a sound that is authentically acoustic in its elements but mystical and surreal in sum. The consciousness of its lyrical perspective fits this time and place when political discourse and a surplus of solutions to unavoidable problems dominate society.
With the banshee, Case Watson ascends to the league of contemporaries like Lucy Dacus and Jesca Hoop who are pushing the sound and messaging of rock music in this difficult time as the decade turns.
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