(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

CD review - Julia Nunes, I Think You Know EP (2010)

Julia Nunes is the new kind of popular phenom. She built a following for her quirky ukulele based songs on YouTube, playing a mix original songs and interesting covers. This attention eventually scored her a chance to tour and open for Ben Folds. She hasn't let it go to her head, though. She's still a full time student in college and she still responds directly to her fans regardless of how strange the questions get.

I Think You Know is a new EP (due out Feb 2), with 5 songs. Like most EPs, it covers a range of material, without a strong musical theme. It's short enough, that I'll run down the tracklist.

First up is August. This is an older folky song. This is the sound and feel of a new, fresh love. The simple guitar arrangement is pretty and little details are added in. The harmonies are sweet.

Comatose radically shifts the mood. The choppy beat is anxious, which fits the disjoint nature of the lyrics. It's not clear whether this is about the fear of love or something darker. A little bit of studio talk tacked onto the end punctures the seriousness.

The bass and drums provide a perfect bed for the indie folk sound of Grown a Pair. It's a reflective piece. The lyrics start out wanting to be cared for, then slide into paranoia. This "push me-pull you" theme flows smoothly. This is one of the best songs here.

I Think You Know returns to the simpler folky sound. With a theme of moving beyond a relationship, the intensity builds, but the lyrics don't quite live up to the emotional weight of the vocals. There's a lot left unsaid here. The bridge is particularly sweet, when the arrangements falls back to vocals and ukulele.

Through the Floorboards should have been a Barenaked Ladies song. It has the rhythm, the instrumentation, the lyrics, and the vocal delivery. It's a tight arrangement, with some nice musical sections. The chorus loosens up the driving beat, leading into a great sonic opening with retro shifting harmonies. Then, it drops suddenly into the next verse:
I don't mind burning bridges
To the bitches I used to live with
But I'm all about forgiveness
So I'll take this tape and run

Unwinding yards
To mend these shattered hearts
Doing circles round the shifting ground
That's tearing us apart

I don't get what changed
But you're not the same
I doubt I'll ever get the chance to explain, given the circumstance

I kind of feel you through the floorboards...
Every time I listen to I Think You Know, this is the song that sticks in my ear.

Even with the darker moments, this a cool mint tea collection of songs.