Review Summary: Waves and the Both of Us is a great, albeit safe record."It’s about all the different waves that live inside my head and heart, and how they affect others, myself, and the person I want or pretend to be."
- Charlotte Sometimes on Waves and the Both of Us
If such is the case with Charlotte Sometimes' (real name Jessie Poland) debut album, then one would have to be forgiven for assuming the twenty year old singer-songwriter to be just a tad bit angry or bitter. This is mostly due to the dark, oft scornful lyrical imagery which pervades through the forty minute album, and makes up the majority of Sometimes' message. All this is veiled under Waves and the Both of Us
' largely bouncy, yet passionate sound, which takes Fiona Apple influenced singer-songwriter pop and layers it with catchy dance beats. Though this isn't all that unique, Charlotte Sometimes' song writing talents make Waves and the Both of Us
a treat to listen to.
One of Sometimes' greatest assets lies in her distinct vocal charm. Her performances range from soaring and confident to sensual and even vulnerable, depending on the tone of the song, yet her delivery conveys powerful emotions consistently throughout the album, no matter what the mood. Charlotte's backing band gives her a lot of room, and strangely feels almost non-existent, though that isn't really a problem as she's the force behind the album. Even slightly awkward melodies, such as the main acoustic guitar riff in "Losing Sleep" for example, are less noticeable then they would otherwise be. That isn't to say that Sometimes has to make up for writing miscues often; rather, it's more of a testament to her vocal ability.
Even with the somewhat lacklustre melody, "Losing Sleep" opens the album up on a fairly decent note. Waves and the Both of Us
steps it up to the next level with lead single, "How I Could Just Kill a Man", a brief number primed for the radio. Also featured on Charlotte Sometimes' self-titled EP, the song is a morose tale of lost love in which Sometimes broods through each contemplative verse before letting it all out during regret fuelled chorus. The title track and "Sweet Valium High" – both of which can be heard on the aforementioned EP – follow in similar suit, though "Waves and the Both of Us" is does a better job of hiding Sometimes" insecurities than the other two. The record is shaken up with "AEIOU", a scathing mid-paced track which strips the instrumentation down to Poland's vocals and catchy beats. The song relies almost exclusively on the half-spoken/half-sung vocal lines, yet manages to come away as one of Waves and the Both of Us' most memorable songs. "Toy Soldier" gives listeners the best of both worlds, taking the half-spoken/half-sung singing style and backing it up with gentle piano melodies, making for one of Waves and the Both of Us
' stronger moments.
Waves and the Both of Us
slows down dramatically upon its close. "In Your Apartment", a wistful ballad, and "Build Me the Moon" see Sometimes forego her dance beats completely, and are some of her more heartfelt songs. The latter song, along with album closer "Pilot" aren't nearly as accessible as earlier songs, and aren't quite as easy to digest as result. But they offer a softer, warmer foil to Poland's song writing, and it's a direction I'd be interested in hearing her explore a little more in the future.
As it stands, Waves and the Both of Us
is a great, albeit safe record. Though its execution isn't perfect – nothing major, just a few mishaps and weak melodies here and there – Charlotte Sometimes' debut album is both cohesive and entertaining, while managing to showcase her talents quite well. It would just be nice to see her take some more risks with her music, as her efforts on Waves and the Best of Us
suggest the possibility of big things from the young singer-songwriter.