Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brave New Artists: Andrea Liuzza and Volenté

This post is going to be about singer-songwriters because there's something rather brave about them, especially those who write, play and produce themselves. There's nowhere to hide when you're a singer-songwriter. I've recently found two of them that I'm impressed with. Andrea Liuzza, who hails from Italy, and Volenté, who comes from Wales, both create vulnerable songs, but in different styles; the former is a mix of lo-fi indie and raspy theatrics, while the latter is gentle, melodic acoustic music with electronic elements. Liuzza has just released the follow-up to his first album Countless Ways For Pressing Flowers, which is called Melancholia I, and Volenté is about to release the follow up to her first album Cold Clean, which is entitled Butterflies Fall Away.

I only became aware of Andrea Liuzza recently via a post by The Devil Has the Best Tuna, and the fact he was compared with Patrick Wolf and Radiohead caught my attention. I took a listen to his latest album Melancholia I, which can be streamed and purchased at CD Baby, and I fell in love with the broken voice and broken music. I agree that there are links to Patrick Wolf, Radiohead, and even Bright Eyes, but Liuzza definitely crafts his own distinct anatomy of melancholy. The album is bookended by tracks called Born and Unborn. The former is a low-key piano ballad that only lasts a minute, but it nonetheless touches you and lingers in your imagination with its child-like vocals singing words of despair; the latter acts as an instrumental reprise of Born. The title track lurches about as it tells the story of a boy who "never makes love, just makes war," and a girl who "cuts her skin with a knife, looking at blood to find life." The crashing chorus and desperation in Liuzza's voice eventually ends in heart-drenching rain. The track Birdie shuffles along to screechy bouts of feedback as it recounts the memories of childhood naivete and holds them up against the reality represented by a bleeding bird. I Kissed Alice is a slower, acoustic ballad that demonstrates the fragility that underlies the album - the heartbreak and longing is a frosted window into Liuzza's soul, translucent and breakable. Then the track Sick swoops in with theatrical flourishes and spins around in a bitter waltz of a diseased mind - the narrator denounces everything about human interaction and reveals the dark inner workings of depression and self-loathing at the song's beginning, but is plaintively asking "Do you love me, too? Can you care for me?" by the end, clamouring for the affection he cannot believe himself capable of returning.

Pink Rabbits Are Always Happy is another completely vulnerable track with Liuzza's honesty raking over you like razor blades. The reckless, breathless Wolf reminds me of a rockier Clinic and splatters nihilism against the wall like the blood from a burst heart only to revel in smearing it all over itself. In anticipation of this track, Liuzza wrote this telling piece on his Web site: "Wolf is a Pleistocene survivor. He risks extinction. He spends his wild life with only 1 partner. Wolf is the dark side of Little Red Riding Hood. Wolf is the undesired reverb of music. There's a Wolf in you. Cry, cry Wolf." Penultimate track I Miss You Forever is a dreamy tune and the most peaceful one on the album, a brief surfacing from the shadowy depths of the previous tracks, or perhaps a surrender before voluntarily going under.

In contrast with Liuzza's acrid torment and brooding, Volenté (whose full name is Volenté Lloyd) creates sweeter, wistful music, but is no less personal. Her voice is alternately reminiscent of Kelli Dayton/Ali, who used to sing for Sneaker Pimps, and Kate Bush. I've only been able to listen to five of the twelve tracks for her latest album, which can be heard on her MySpace page, but they've given me an excellent feel for the record, and I would love to hear more when the album releases in late July. Title track, Butterflies Fall Away, layers acoustic guitar over washes of woodwind sound as she implores her loved one to keep strong. Middle Ground pulses with an arcane magic, organic rhythms paired with shimmery synth lines and her voice sounds both delicate and tribal. Heart of Gold pushes Volenté's vocals to dizzying, enchanting heights as an Eastern melody line runs in the background - the refrain of "always all about you" continues to build and emulates Kate Bush at her most dramatic. Volenté shifts back into a more soulful timbre for Old Love and advises that it "ain't no good going back to an old love" to the ticking of drums and bold guitars. Missing You is a beautiful atmospheric track with ethereal vocals but without actual lyrics, expressing the sentiment of the title without having to articulate it with language; in many ways, a sentiment like this is best left unarticulated when music can say everything that words can't. Just as the best graphic designers are the ones who know how to use white space, I think it's a sign of a true musical artist when he/she knows when to let the music speak for itself, and Volenté does that with this song.

Andrea Liuzza's MySpace:

Andrea Liuzza's Web site:

Volenté's MySpace:

Sick - Andrea Liuzza

Wolf - Andrea Liuzza

Middle Ground - Volenté

Heart of Gold- Volenté


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