Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Valery Gore

If you know me and my taste and music, you know that I like songs with horns. I also like songs played on the piano. Tronna's own Valery Gore produces songs that have both piano and horns, which makes me like her 2008 offering, Avalanche to Wandering Bear.

Now, it would be not only unfair to compare Gore's work to a certain other Canadian songstress/pianist, it would also largely be inaccurate. Her jazz-cum-brainy playing style is more similar to Randy Newman's and her vocal approach more akin to A Fine Frenzy's Alison Sudol than Ms. Mitchell's vocal acrobatics. She takes her songwriting cues from Tori Amos' slightly (ok, not slightly) bizarre songbook moreso than fellow Canuck Sarah McLaughlin's more narrative format.

Gore moves fluidly through a series of piano-focused styles in the course of Avalanche's baker's dozen tracks. The collection takes off with the effervescent "Shoes of Glass," an uptempo number in the recent piano-power pop tradition of the past decade or so, before introducing the horns in the closing third of "Another Year," which takes a full minute to warm up from Gore's solo piano-and-vocals intro.

The album's gem is the rollicking third tune, "Worried Head," replete with jubilant horn accompaniment. She channels her foremost Tori Amos on the number, with lyrics bordering on the morbid:

Without that beautifully worried head, there’d just be a bleeding neck;
A boneless back, a creeping ghost and heart attack,
without a worried head

Thankfully, the arrangement more than offsets the troubling nature of the content and moves it to the more interesting space occupied by songs like They Might Be Giants' "Turn Around" or Moxy Fruvous' "Splatter, Splatter."

Meanwhile, "Scared" rolls along like a deep cut from Thelonious Monk and mid-album track "Knife Dream" finds Gore accompanied not by her own piano parts, but a hazy jazz horn duo, which nicely draws out the warm accents of her lower alto range. And the moderate sycnopation delivered by late-album pick "Consolation" offers a welcome change of pace to the collection's outer reaches, which are largely populated by earnest, but not especially captivating ballads.

Gore does credit to The Big Smoke with her interestingly-crafted and suitably-performed record, and lets hope her span between new albums is narrower than the gap between her 2005 self-titled debut and her work here on Avalanche.

Come for: "Shoes of Glass"
Stay for: "Worried Head"
You'll be surprised by: "Consolation"

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