Kate Earl - Kate Earl
Record Label: Casablanca Music/Universal Republic
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2009
There's nothing very Alaskan about Anchorage-born singer Kate Earl's major label debut. Though the album is technically her sophomore effort, this album is for all intents and purposes her coming out party. Produced with help from Maroon 5's James Valentine, producer extraordinaire Mike Elizondo and Dan the Automator, the album is a focused study that blends urban sophistication, syncopated beats, thumping rhythms, and blue-eyed soul. Add in a dash of precise piano playing, ethereal verses and soaring choruses and the end result is this glowing self-titled record.
Anchored by lead single, "Melody," which for all intents and purposes is this year's "Chasing Pavements," the album meanders through pre-recorded rhythms and lively, urban beats. There's a definitive sophistication here that allows her to showcase her throaty, expressive vocals and her accessible, warm melodies. Smoky opener "Nobody," and second track "Can't Treat Me That Way," have a decided Dido-like bent, while fourth track "Only in Dreams," has a bit of a processed Jordin Sparks vibe. Passionate and moving fifth track "All I Want," and triumphant sixth track "When You're Ready," have more of a Rihanna-meets-Rickie Lee Jones vibe. The album's other real head-turner is the crisp and intimate "Golden Street," in which she sings about faith or lack thereof amidst a sea of plaintive soft-rock. There's a simplicity and grace at work here that is so refined and focused, it's truly astonishing. The album ends with four solid cuts in a row. "Jump," is powerful in a Kelly Clarkson-like way, while should-be second single "Everlasting" is layered, pure and soulful. Penultimate track "Learning to Fly" is another stab at commercial appeal and closer "Impossible," showcases more of the understated charm from debut Fate is the Hunter, while also possessing the commercial appeal to stay relative on the charts.
For those that were paying attention, this album's appeal is certainly no surprise. On her earthy debut album Fate is the Hunter, Earl managed to write stirring songs that were piano-driven, gritty and honest. Her old-soul single "Officer," even landed some airplay at select radio stations, including KCRW and she found herself opening up for Matt Nathanson. Now, with this effort, she seems ready to take off.
Though she's joined at Universal Republic by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Leighton Meester, Kate Havnevnik, Colbie Caillat and Erin McCarley, there's little reason to think she won't be the cream of the crop when all is said and done. Sure Caillat is a big star after the success of Coco, but the other three haven't ascended to the top of the charts as one would hope. Having inked a deal with heavy-hitter Tommy Mottola's management, Earl is certainly in capable hands. That simple fact and the arresting power of "Melody," are reason enough to think that by year's end, the Grammy's may come a calling. Armed with confidence, charisma and armfuls of creativity, Kate Earl has all the talent to reinvent the female singer/songwriter spectrum, and with an effort like this, that just may be the case.