Long time, no see, internet. I’ve missed you. I know you missed me too. No you didn’t. But it’s okay. Because Erin McCarley is out with a new album.
Erin McCarley is one of those singer-songwriters. You know, the ones that try to seem indie with their choices in arrangement, quirky-pop songwriting, placement on the soundtracks for He’s Just Not That Into You and Grey’s Anatomy, odd-but-solid lyricism and use of actual instrumentation and chord progressions as opposed to nonsense synths and dubstep-inspired computer breakdowns. But really, she’s a pop artist, signed to Universal Republic. I say that like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. If pop lives in the Erin McCarley universe, I like pop music. Her music is, for the most part, simultaneously introspective, catchy and often unselfish.
Her biggest hits from her last album, Love, Save the Empty, were the title track, which focused on the “you” rather than the usual “I” (a topic I will soon dive into greater detail on) and prays for a universal love for which to hold an ambiguous “us” together, and “Pony (It’s OK)”, a catchy number with percussion from the coolest instrument never previously used (to my knowledge), a typewriter, and a message again focusing on the “you”, advocating for self-expression. Another gem is “Pitter Pat”, which proves ballads are also in her vast range of composition abilities. Oh, and did I mention that all these songs are catchy and contain smart lyricism?
Yeah, that’s a thing.
Her new album, My Stadium Electric, is, on first listen, a slight step down from Love, Save the Empty–it’s clear she’s headed closer to mainstream pop with this record. However, a couple of her key signatures remain–well-produced, clever arrangements and catchy progressions with occasionally unselfish pieces–if she adds a few synths here and there and her lyrics become a little less coherent (I’m looking at you, “Elevator”).
The album has its highlights–“Pop Gun” is immensely catchy, as is “Elevator” (though a bit too synthy for my taste, the percussive elements are fun and the hook is neat). “What I Needed” and “Re-Arrange Again” prove her dynamic ballads are back with a smoothly executed vengeance. “There’s No Holding You Down” brings back the empowerment present in “Pony (It’s OK)”. And for the most part, it’s loaded with similarly real instrumentation, rather than synths. Oh, and “Amber Waves”, a vibes-and-xylo-tinged catchy piano-pop tune, is the free single on iTunes this week (much like “Pony (It’s OK)” was when Love, Save the Empty was first released in December 2008).
I’d compare this release to Ingrid Michaelson‘s Human Again. Similar style of artist–I prefer Ingrid on the whole as her songwriting is markedly more complex, and in my incredibly uneducated opinion better than McCarley’s–but McCarley chooses to go much lighter on the synths that have proven to be so popular in 2012 with everyone and their mother (including Ingrid), which in my opinion is a fantastic decision that should be applauded.
Definitely worth a good listen. Solid work all around.
Three videos to wrap it up. First, “Pony (It’s OK)”…
…second, an acoustic version of “Pitter Pat”, to inform you that she has real talent…
…and finally, her new single, “Elevator”: