Harper Phillips - Cartography
Harper Phillips' debut Cartography may start you thinking about map-making, but the album is instead about designs on the heart. Each song, poppy and strongly sung, paints lines of detail across a canvas inspired by love and passion, and at odds with loss and heartbreak. With vocals similar to Zooey Deschanel's with She & Him, Harper Phillips brings melodic honesty to an album full of charming ukulele pop. While ukulele music may bring to mind immediate sonic-memories of Kamakawiwoʻole's version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," Harper Phillips tests the boundaries of the instrument by working with rock-style progressions and time-signature changes that make many of the songs musically unique. "Balance" is a strongly metered waltz that functions ideally with the song's subject matter, oscillation between faith and fear and love and dispassion. This skilled songwriting shows musical maturity and a knowledge of her instrument, but beyond that, it breaks up the pace of the album.
Where Harper Phillips shines brightest is in the honesty of the lyrics. "San Francisco" plots a lover's pleas to hear no more talk of a city that means the demise of a relationship. "Underwater" is mixed with a thickness that makes the water above feel physically present. It is a muted voice, swirling within the torrent of ocean's depth, with words that could only come from life experience in their detail and sincerity. All of Harper Phillips' lyrics are clear, and full of emotional bravado, but without any repugnant melodrama. There is a lot of love here, and a lot of loss, fear, hope, dreamy compassion, and self-doubt. These words are most often direct, presented as they are, without thick, wasteful metaphor, but this is not the treacle poetry of Jewel or another too-cute-to-dislike album. Cartography is deeply heartfelt. "Sugar Sand" specifically shows power and some of the most creative arrangements on the album, as well as some of the most meta, self-aware lyrics in recent memory.
Cartography gets better with every listen and is something complete, an album with a topic and a soul that pervades the entire disc. You can download it now on iTunes here and check out more information about Harper Phillips on her website: http://www.harperphillips.com/
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