CD REVIEW: Jackie Highway - Solid State Sun
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Jackie Highway
CD: Solid State Sun
Label: Independent Artist
Website: Feist, Edie Brickell, Beck, No Doubt, B52’s, Belly
Genre: Pop, Alternative Folk, Singer/Songwriter
Sounds Like: Feist, Edie Brickell, B52’s, Beck
Technical Grade: 7/10
Weakness: More vocal risk taking and emotion, More solo segments and harmonies, Short Sided CD
Jackie Highway is 1-woman band of songwriter/musician Angie Shyr. A classically trained pianist and violinist, she has performed with Led Zeppelin, Guster, The B-52’s, The Temptations. She creates a dynamic mix of songs infused with quirky pop originality in debut album Solid State Sun. Producers: Sean Slade (Radiohead, Dresden Dolls) and Benny Grotto (Ben Folds, Kim Boekbinder)
The CD quickly takes to flight with “Forever Now” a mesmerizing intro piece that serves up uplifting intro against well placed Celtic fretwork, impressive Piano Accents, and hooky vocal melody from Shyr. Track 2 “Ride the High Tide” keeps things moving with its dynamic groove, rocked out instrumentation and amazing vocal ambience that peaks and valleys its way through to emotional fruition. Track 3 “What Happens” delivers a rocked out piece with driving rock rhythm, impressive keyboard accents, against a grand slam chorus. As this CD slowly unfolds I can hear many different musical soundscapes reminiscent of such classic acts as Feist, Beck, Edie Brickell, No Doubt, B52’s and Belly. The music itself is an impressive blend of Electronic Rock, Folk and Alternative Rock elements with an almost Punk aftertaste. The musicianship and sonic touches are clearly above the bar. Besides the 4 piece standard you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive Piano, Rocked out guitar, sonic touches, horns, solo guitar, strings, orchestral tidbits, lush harmonies, impressive keyboard accents all built upon thick as brick rhythm section. Turning our attention over to Shyr – she has an effective voice and can play the Piano like nobody’s business. Shyr has a unique and citifying vocal persona that is fun and carefree. Her lyrics are interesting, eccentric and quirky in a good way. Shyr has solid production instincts throughout, and did I mention she did all this work by herself - like Beck. The songwriting is an interesting and psychedelic snapshot that provides a lot of musical variety and emotional depth. I can honestly say I was entertained the entire time, with never a dull moment to be found. From heartfelt “Honeyduchess” to striking “The Grant” and “Snow, His Sun, Her Water” to methodical “Bach is my Boyfriend” to melodic “Flowchart” to hypnotic “Hold You” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Keeper” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
I also wish Shyr came out of her shell more and took some serious vocal risks here and there, of course when the music calls for it. I mean real vocal risks, with more in the way of raw emotion – happy or sad. Thoughout the CD Shyr elects to play it way to safe vocally avoiding any serious rocks that would showcase a world class vocal ability. She does a good job at holding it together vocally, and she brings many other strengths to the table, but it's fair to say Shyr needs to really let loose more vocally on future releases. I wish there were move vocal harmonies and solo segments throughout as well. CD cover art looks a bit amateurish to me. The CD is also bit short with only 10 songs, perhaps 4-5 more tracks are needed to make this a full loaded musical experience.
From start to finish this latest release Solid State Sun from Jackie Highway is just a blast to listen to. The fact that she did this CD all this work by herself is commendable and proves she has talent. She's an amazing Piano player. The music is very consistent, well-crafted and entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The production strokes: writing and playing abilities of this production are rock solid. All in all it’s a powerfully diverse catalogue of music that proves Angie Shyr is a surging force to be reckoned with.