You (Understood), Samantha Crain, Ramseur Records, 7 November 2011
You (Understood) is an archive of human interaction: each track documents moments and events in relationships that Samantha Crain has had. Crain maps out her encounters, approached abstractly through lyrics and interpreted through time signatures. Some tracks are more experimental than others, and the girls are can’t help wondering what this means about the people those songs relate to, and if they can identify themselves.
At no point does this record become a vengeful break up album as many releases that self-confess their auto-biographical nature can become. In contrast You (Understood) is at times wryly affectionate, at others aggressive and at yet more points it is softly mocking in tone.
Samantha Crain brings a self-reflexiveness to her voice, but stays vocally on the Alanis Morissette side of quirky. It is not the kind of voice that you might find under an elm at midnight duetting with Natasha Khan or a Cocorosie sister. If you walked into a speakeasy and enquired after the female gunslinger drinking a bourbon in the corner, and managed to get that lady lone wolf to sing a madrigal for you, you’d be getting closer to knowing what Crain’s voice has to offer.
This is Crain’s second album and it expands on the themes she first explored on 2009’s Songs in the Night. This time she has pushed herself and her music harder, finding new spaces to inhabit inside the sounds she’s created. This album was recorded in a ‘white pole barn’ in Whichita, Kansas, with Joey Lemon, darling of melancholic Mid-Western Americana on producing duty.
‘Equinox’ is the song that stands heads, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest of the record, presiding over the album like a syncopated monarch. Its lyric, “take it forward / bring it back” is echoed in its to and fro of melodies and rhythms. ‘Religious Wind’ and ‘Up On The Table’ both bring a quiet introspection and more traditional storytelling. Tracks ‘Santa Fe’ and ‘Wichitalright’ are sombre and slowly mournful. This album is a tapestry of moods, an intriguing release from a developing artist. Crain is one to keep an eye on as she experiments further with her song writing and creativity.
Crain has just completed a UK tour in which she has showcased songs from this album. Did you catch her on tour? Do the album’s richly textured atmospherics translate to a live experience?