CD Reviews: Meaghan Smith and Dawn Landes

Meaghan Smith
The Cricket’s Orchestra
Sire

Dawn Landes
Sweet Heart Rodeo
Cooking Vinyl

By David Chiu

Upon hearing the respective releases by these two talented newcomers, one can say that they’re not exactly following what’s popular or trendy in music these days. Refreshingly, both Meaghan Smith and Dawn Landes are doing quite fine pursuing their own muse and in the process forging some distinct sounds.

Meaghan Smith’s music on her full-length debut seems to be a throwback to Tin Pan Alley/Roaring Twenties: kind of jazzy, old-timey pop music. The result is something so exuberant, infectious and charmingly sweet from “Heartbroken” and “Take Me Dancing” to “You Got Out” and “A Little Love.” It’s not all roses as Smith can also turn in some ballads such as the heartbreaking “Drifted Apart.” As a singer, Smith is captivating who can project with the feistiness and charisma of a pop star and the ease and command of a jazz belter. The Cricket’s Orchestra is not your typical modern-day pop record—retro cool is what it is.

Speaking of retro, the elements of country music on Brooklyn musician Dawn Landes’ latest record, Sweet Heart Rodeo, may not be a surprise to those who know of her background: she’s from Missouri and came to New York several years ago. (Personal note: I saw her open for Suzanne Vega at Barnard College almost seven years ago). The down-home Southern sounds permeates throughout her new record from the jugband stomp of “Young Girl” to “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (with an awesome guitar solo) and the gentle and reflective “Brighton”. Adding some variety to a predominantly country-folk sound, Landes ingeniously incorporates some electronic influences on the the trippy, lo-fi “Love” and the predominantly instrumental coda All Dressed in White, as well as pop (“Romeo” kind of recalls almost a ‘60s doo wop/girl group sound). Landes’ voice offers a very understated delivery that projects warmth and grace on wistful and elegant songs like “Little Miss Holiday” and “Dance Area.”

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