Cornered! A Weekly CD Review

Sandi Thom’s Internet broadcast got her noticed. She decided to discard the traditional method of trekking from one hole in the wall to another for gigs. A three-week show via a Webcam setup on MySpace and her own Web site brought her the first Webcast signing by a major record label. She is an example of the possible music democracy the Internet offers, with head music honchos paying attention to the interests of their potential audiences.
However, as I looked at the CD case of ‘Smile … It Confuses People,’ its punk-rock posturing had me resigned to a sullen girl’s aural creations.
Fortunately my disdain for this CD, which I know is a nearly antiquated music format, was unmerited. Sandi’s lyrics are largely retrospective, from her relationships or her feeling of displacement in time, and she does very well in creating an upbeat, folksy rock sound.
‘When Horsepower Meant What It Said’ is a highlight of Sandi’s work. It is catchy and nostalgic, like much of the album. Her voice is playful, smooth and strong enough to keep the songs from seeming childish. In fact, the music is a throwback to simple rock beats updated with her version of neo-folk, complete with handclapping.
The second track on the album, entitled ‘I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)’ is certainly the star of the album. A strong beat, simple lyrics and an emphatic songbird make this short song incredibly catchy.
Even the more introspective songs aren’t particularly depressing. I do believe I could listen to ‘Lonely Girl’ or ‘Sunset Borderline’ on repeat for a year and never break into tears. It is always an excellent idea to have a song around that will allow you to indulge your sullen tendencies without throwing you into full-blown depression.
Although her slower, more thoughtful tunes are pleasant, they are not her strength. ‘Little Remedy’ is a song of confidence and sensitivity that feels a little musically country and vocally folksy. And really, it seems difficult to find a song that chronicles romantic difficulties in a more positive manner. ‘Castles’ is adequate but its lyrics and slow pace lag, making me yearn for some of the songs that more flatteringly display her talents.
‘What If I’m Right’ begins with a much-welcomed upbeat opening. Sandi is back to what she does best here, catchy songs in which she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her independent and realistic approach to romance continues into her next song, ‘Superman,’ a suitably slow ode to being happy with Mr. Imperfect. ‘The Human Jukebox’ has a more soulful feeling to it than the rest of the album but it doesn’t quite seem to fall together. Sandi finishes out her debut album with a gorgeous song entitled ‘Time.’
Much of ‘Smile … It Confuses People’ is very beautiful, especially ‘When Horsepower Meant What It Said,’ ‘I Wish I Was Punk Rocker,’ ‘Little Remedy’ and ‘Time.’
Released Sept. 12, Sandi’s debut album exposes her obvious talent with some very good songs. All I can do is wait until her next release.