Taking elements of psychedelic folk and old-style country into her own unique songwriting, Kelli Scarr sets herself apart as a truly individual and worthwhile voice.
Silence Breaks, 2012
8.2 / 10.0
The name Kelli Scarr is one you are probably more likely to equate with a comic book character than a fast rising indie songwriter. Fortunately, I think Kelli is about to change that quickly. The groundwork has already been laid. Scarr’s first claim to fame came in the form of an Emmy nomination for her work penning the soundtrack for the HBO documentary In A Dream. Then, a chance meeting with Moby in 2009 led to the two working together on his album Wait For Me. Scarr’s debut solo record, Piece, garnered support from none other than the indie gatekeepers at NPR, who called the album “enchanting”. So, this brings us to Kelli’s sophomore record Dangling Teeth. Luckily for us, it seems like Kelli Scarr is the type of artist who will just keep improving her own game. With fully-formed individual voice, Scarr writes brilliant songs that are only strengthened by a pristine production. The music on Dangling Teeth is delicate and complex; perfect for both a Sunday morning and an evening by the fire.
Much of the sound on Dangling Teeth seems to owe some amount of debt to the woozy atmospherics of Mazzy Star. But, instead of the über spacey psychedelic feel of that group, Scarr utilizes a lot these beautiful steel guitar elements that one would expect to find in a classic Patsy Cline record. That seemingly slight change does a lot to keep this record from befalling the same weaknesses that many of Kelli’s contemporaries rely on. Namely, the songs aren’t so spacey as to all sound the same. The transitions between songs and development of the record overall are done nicely; finding Scarr switching between groove-heavy singer-songwriter love songs (“It Ain’t Me”) and more atmospheric tangents that border on the (gasp) beautiful (“Dangling Teeth”). The most impressive thing I found on the record however, was Kelli’s fine hand with a melody. The song “Thank You” plays like a perfect fit for any prime-era Paul McCartney album. The only weakness of the record appears to be the closing track, “I’ll Always Wait”. Just a shade under a daunting ten minute playtime, this track is just too long. Even here however, Scarr does a great job of building the track. If the song was only two minutes shorter, it might be the strongest single track on the record. That is an unfortunate anomaly on an otherwise expertly edited record.
I’ll make no bones about the fact that I have a personal soft spot for female songwriters. I don’t think it is for any great social reason. I really think that women are bringing the most to the table these days. Artists like Leah Siegel, Danielle Duval, Sharon Van Etten, Sydney Wayser, and Sarah Jaffe are just making the guys look bad by comparison. I think Kelli Scarr should be added to that list. She is adding something to the conversation that is completely her own, without making music that is unnecessarily difficult. I love Dangling Teeth and you should too.
“You Could Be So Great”
“It Ain’t Me”
Purchase Kelli Scarr’s Dangling Teeth