Elle Carpenter was a singer and actor when she was a child living in Plainfield, Vermont. She began playing folk music with her family and later in life moved to Los Angeles where she performed and recorded her music. Her recent release Life Just Happens is a perfect mix between traditional folk and mainstream pop. It’s evident from the stellar production to the immediately enjoyable melodies that Carpenter wants to reach as many people as possible with her music. The inclusion of instruments such as the fiddle, mandolin and upright bass is one of the things that separate her from other artists who play straight up pop.
Lyrically and thematically the album is easy to understand. From the titles alone such as “Afraid of Love” and “I Feel This Way” you can surmise what the songs are about. Carpenter’s lyrics tend to contain simple unambiguous language that sacrifices poetic creativity for transparency. Let's face it. Most mainstream pop songs are the same way and Carpenter follows those standards with her songs. Musically, the album is robust with rich melodies, dynamic interludes and exceptional singing. There isn’t much to complain about in this department as long as you don’t mind a good pop song.
Carpenter is at her best when she tends to her folk roots like on the first song “Open Hearts”. The song is upbeat and the string work is exceptional. Despite the upbeat melody and mood the lyrics point to conflicted emotion. “Open Hearts” is one of the highlights of the album and contains one of Carpenter's best vocal performances. “Life Just Happens To You” is another solid tune that follows the narrative of a guy who devotes his life to his job and gets fired as well as the young girl who gets her heart broken. The fiddle is a great addition that separates it from feeling like a standard pop song.
“I Feel This Way” is a melancholy pop song while “Afraid of Love” contains country/folk overtones that make Carpenter stand out. Luckily, as the album progresses Carpenter rarely sounds like a predictable pop artist. “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” is simply gorgeous and the mandolin on this song is fantastic.
I would embrace pop music more if someone like Carpenter were on mainstream radio. There is no denying this music can resonant with a large audience. I think this music will appeal to most people even the occasional jaded hipster who has a vinyl record collection.
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