Sylvia Grape is a young artist from Santa Cruz, Northern California who started writing songs in 2012. That’s not a very long time if you ask me to be writing music but nonetheless she released an album entitled I Am but a Stranger Here. I was impressed not only by the songwriting but the technical skill and creativity.
She opens with “Dearest Elijah (feat. Dave Forst)” and showcases her dynamic vocals along with her guitar playing. It’s a bright song that hits on a vibe on traditional folk vibe. The somewhat wild orchestral strings were a nice addition to the song as well. Great opener.
“January Cigarettes” showcases some classical guitar playing. She manipulates her voice differently at first. It’s a lot more soulful and southern sounding. Grape shows plenty of range on “Girl” and plays guitar like Ani DiFranco here. Oh how popular DiFranco was when I was in college about twenty years ago.
Grape continues to slay on guitar. “Love & Time” might be her most natural sounding vocal performance. She seems comfortable here. The soul returns on “Marci” while “Autumnal” is heartfelt and sincere. “Santa Cruz” plays more into a folk and country vibe. “Lights (feat. David Frost) might be the highlight as the strings return. Things start to wrap up with the melancholy and beautiful “Unfamiliar Places and People (feat. Dave Frost).” Last up is “Got A New Number” which is a bluesy/jazz number.
First let me say I think Grape is great vocalist. I think the sky 's the limit for her. On that note I have one piece of advice. She is a bit of a chameleon with her vocal approach and often sings with a noticeable affectation. It’s as if she is adapting her vocal style to what she thinks the song calls for. This at first might seem like the correct thing (because she does sound great) but in my opinion it also can take away from the listener starting to recognize her signature vocal sound over the length of an album. My point being I think it’s valuable to really define the singular vocal qualities of a singer because you will notice their voice no matter what the style of song. Take for instance Jack White, Bjork or Thom Yorke to name a few who have utterly recognizable voices no matter what style.
As an engineer myself I applaud Grape on making this album completely DIY style. I thought it sounded great. I will also say her music is beautiful and soulful with enough nuance that I would love to hear what her songs sound like that were recorded in a professional studio.
I have been working in music for over twenty years and I think Grape has an innate talent she is just tapping into. In fact I can almost guarantee this is just the beginning because she started only seven years ago. Overall, I think this is a good quality album from beginning to end and I am excited to hear where she goes from here.
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