I’ve listened to a lot of music in my thirty-six years on this planet; however I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an artist so directly influenced by kittens. Yes you heard me right - kittens. Sarah Donner runs a cat rescue and had an experience with a kitten called Melon which directly influenced one of her albums entitled Big Big Heart. Donner has had two recent releases. Her solo album is entitled Black Hole Heart. She also released Big Big Heart in a project called KittenSlay Dragons which is a collaboration.
Between the two albums Black Hole Heart seemed to far superior. Black Hole Heart is full of rich, organic instrumentation, great melodies and fantastic production. The songs are emotionally resonant and her voice really shines. Big Big Heart plays into the synth pop craze that has exploded in the last couple of years. To be blunt the production and recording quality isn’t as strong. The beats and synth lines were pretty basic overall and something I think most people familiar with programs like Ableton or Reason could conjure up with relative ease. Luckily, her vocal lines are often enjoyable enough to carry the songs.
Let's start with Black Hole Heart which opens with “Phoenix.” It is one of the most single-worthy songs on the album. It wasn’t a personal favorite of the batch but arguably it was the most commercially viable. There is a smooth, laid back vibe to the song that is undeniably pop.
The title track was a highlight. It’s upbeat, has some great instrumental sections and her voice really shines here. Melancholy sounds good on her as you can hear on “Tamsen Donner 1847.” The song is subtle but emotionally powerful and the vocals harmonies are great. Another clear highlight was the country and bluegrass inspired “Athena.” It is an exceptional song with great string work and some of the most infectious vocals.
“The Flood” was another success that felt carefree and loose. I loved the feel of this song. Don’t miss the trumpet. She sings, ”You’re a hurricane. We braced for the biggest hit / A white whale making waves that could sink a ship.”
The good times continue with a string of great songs. “Albatross” “Sinking Ship” and the closer “Sol 549” stuck out to me. Big Big Heart didn't hit me the same way Black Hole Heart did although there were some songs that stuck out. In this context with the electronic elements she seemed to be at her best with poppy, catchy vocal lines.
“Queers and Square” is an MDMA-fueled underground club song meets ’90s techno while “Under The Waves” contains vocal harmonies with her husband that was one of the inspired moments on the album. “Eggs” felt like a one-off pop song lacking the full electronic feel that contains one of her best performances.
Although Big Big Heart is far from perfect there was still some enjoyable moments and notable songs. Overall, Donner is a very talented and diverse musician. She also rescues and loves kittens so she gets extra points for that. She has a very dense discography of work. If I were you I’d probably take the next month off work and listen to her entire catalogue while browsing for cute kitten videos on Youtube. Cheers.
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