wears the trousers magazine

brooke waggoner: go easy little doves (2009)
November 17, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: ,


Brooke Waggoner
Go Easy Little Doves ••••
Swoon Moon

Formally trained as a classical pianist from a very young age, 24 year old Brooke Waggoner deftly imbues the gorgeous vignettes of her second album with a real sense of elegance and grace borrowed from her 17 years’ grooming. While last year’s Heal For The Honey shone the spotlight on a more introspective side to Waggoner’s artistry, Go Easy Little Doves expertly plays up the classical elements in both her musicianship and her writing – the imaginative chord progressions, the intricate vocal harmonies, the swelling strings – but is never too indulgent as to forget the merits of a memorable tune.

A pair of minute-long piano-based instrumentals opens the album, already a bold departure. ‘Query’ is particularly magical; elegant and stately with strings chiming in partway through, it glides effortlessly into the sparser ‘Ruminate’, which displays Waggoner’s intuitive sense of composition and her inventive use of atmospheric effects. These effects converge with pop melodies on ‘Go Easy Little Doves, I’ll Be Fine’, where we hear Waggoner’s quirky, unique voice for the first time on the record. With its foundations on the bass notes of the piano, complemented by a subtle string arrangement, she wraps ethereal vocal hooks around an essentially dreamy theme that nevertheless bears the hallmarks of a darker, slightly sinister undercurrent.

Waggoner is at her most effective when her melodic imagination matches the sophistication of her arrangements. ‘Femmes’, for instance, is swathed in strings, but at its core is an insistent alt-pop number with a more forceful, even propellant, rhythm that’s hypnotic and instantly memorable. Though a Kate Bush comparison is generally seen as a tad lazy, it’s quite fitting here as Waggoner shows off her impressive range and her voice’s rich quality. ‘Find Her Floods’, too, is an alluring piece, pacing through distinct passages that are alternately upbeat and jaunty and something altogether more wistful and melancholy. Again string-drenched, this time Waggoner counterbalances the weighty arrangement with some low-mixed choral vocal effects that bring the song to life.

Elsewhere, Waggoner’s material is alternately slow and intimate (‘Meek, Wild’), bright and vibrant (‘Chromates Soft Love’), and pretty and light (‘Godwin’). Aside from the Kate Bush comparison, and a slight Martha Wainwright feel to the opening of ‘Body’, she’s not easy to categorise as she carves out a quietly original work. The classical strings add real flair to the songs, though some may argue that Waggoner sometimes relies too much on these dramatic flourishes. At their core, however, the songs are invariably strong enough for these additions not to interfere with the overall enjoyment of the album.

Cinematic and vividly imagined, Go Easy Little Doves is an impressive record from a burgeoning talent. If Waggoner can trim off some of her remaining excesses on her next release, she’ll be more than fine; she’ll be a star.

Matt Barton
UK release date: 06/10/09; www.myspace.com/brookewaggoner


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