Review Summary: A warm and sinister entry into the world of blues and jazz.Blood Sirens
is an album that establishes a plethora of oxymorons. It has a chill to it that warms the heart. It contains a bombastic minimalist jazz sound. It conjures up images of midnight that still has light to it. Most of all, it has a fairly straightforward sound that is incredibly difficult to define.
Sarah McCoy’s sound can be best summed up in the second track on the album, “Boogieman”, the most over the top track, yet also one of the shortest offerings (yet another oxymoron in McCoy’s arsenal). Starting off with just McCoy’s haunting alto voice and a piano, flourishes are slowly added to the sound. An electronic snippet here, a a burst of synth there, pounded bass keys on the piano, and suddenly McCoy’s voice explodes
, singing sinister lyrics regarding a lover, or at least some person in the narrator’s life. The subdued but powerful vocal performance loses all aspects of hushedness and becomes a beautiful bark, before retreating again into the darkness.
This is what McCoy undoubtedly does best. She maintains the sound of a Paris lounge singer (where she got her start), with a smooth brand of jazz and blues that somehow sounds almost threatening all at the same time. The album is often nothing more than McCoy’s smooth and unique voice, piano, and some instrumental flourishes with interesting lyrics, yet the way that she employs all of these adds to the feeling that McCoy is a powerful woman making entirely unique music.
This is what makes songs like “I Miss Her” so impactful. A moment of introspection and regret, where McCoy reflects on parts of herself that she feels like she no longer has control over. A song that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Adele album, it gives us a glimpse behind the mystique of McCoy’s persona. With the piano suite of “Death of a Blackbird” leading into “I Miss Her” and the acoustic guitar drive “Fearless”, a song contemplating death, on the other side, “I Miss Her” is a song that doesn’t necessarily fit the theme of the album, but provides a needed catharsis.
What is perhaps most remarkable is that, for her minimal sound, the songs on Blood Sirens
still maintain unique identities within themselves. The haunting opener “New Orleans” relies mainly on piano and backing vocals that sound almost gregorian in nature, while managing to make lyrics such as “Like a cheese puff in the rain/No I didn’t stand a chance” sound entirely convincing. “Pistol Whipped” has a point where McCoy’s voice resonates entirely a cappella, creating perhaps the most beautiful moment on the album. Late album highlight “Devil’s Prospect” has a thumping hand clap/stomping rhythm that draws from McCoy’s Louisiana heritage. The entire album shares the same elements, but each song is it’s own individual beast, with a few exceptions, such as “Someday” which slightly overstays its welcome without the additional instrumental flourishes and “Ugly Dog” which slogs a little a bit and sounds like retreads of past highlights.
McCoy’s debut is beautifully sinister. It’s both a warm embrace and slightly uncomfortable to listen to at the same time. If somehow sounds like midnight, yet if you listen to it as you fall asleep, know you might wake up from that sleep worrying about a boogieman of your own.