Bio (from facebook.com/sallyfowlermusic):
I started writing songs in a tiny apartment in West Harlem in 2010. After trying to write about deep human issues and failing, I realized what truly inspired me were films, characters in books, other people’s works of art, and my reaction to all of it. I continue to write about heroes and villains, good times and apocalypses while incorporating intermediate guitar skills and being the occasional violinist.
I have recently left New York for the farmland and small towns of Virginia. I look to move on to another new town in the near future.
Ally Ann Fowler (Vocals, Guitar, Violin, Production)
Sally Fowler came to my attention when a Facebook friend posted her cover of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall,” and it was completely different than the source. The original is synth-pop with very overdriven vocals, while Fowler’s version is a pretty little acoustic guitar song (video here) that shows off a wispy, ethereal voice that is the complete antithesis of the Kavinsky version. I was intrigued. I found her on Bandcamp, and she gave me her album, SONGS FOR ADVENTURERS to review. The description for this EP is “Inspired by the films of Wes Anderson,” so I was even more intrigued, as Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers. Right from the cover art, the Anderson influence is there; it looks like an image that could be the poster for a new Anderson film, and that’s a great start.
SfA is an acoustic folk album made up primarily of the same elements that I was introduced to in the Kavinsky cover: Fowler’s voice and guitar. These are backed with some violin and some digital instrumentation. Since there is no “booklet” that comes with this digital album, and no other info on the Bandcamp page, I assume that Fowler put all of the instrumentation together herself, as well as recording it, and I have to say she did a great job. With “homemade” music, unless it’s electronica, there are often issues with recording quality, or the music just coming out “flat.” SfA does not have either of these problems. The voice and instrumentation recording quality is great, and if I didn’t know better I’d assume that it was mastered in a studio. Though the tracks are pretty simple, Fowler takes the time to overlay multiple sounds and layers of sound to give her songs a rich, rounded feel though it’s just her. Some folk music I’ve listened to is just a person and their guitar, and while that can be beautiful music it’s generally kind of humdrum; SfA is not that.
The Wes Anderson reference comes through not just on the cover art, but the music too. There are references throughout that can be pinned back to his films, but more than that, many of the songs sound like they would just fit in an Anderson soundtrack. I especially got this with “Overzealous,” which really stood out as something I could see Anderson characters having an adventure to; I can see Sam and Suzy from MOONRISE KINGDOM running away with this playing in the background. While “Overzealous” was my personal favorite, I enjoyed all of the 23 minutes of SfA. “What Love Is,” the opening track, introduces you to the distinct vocal resonance Fowler has; I really enjoy her tone. “Wild Animal” brings in more of the violin, one of my favorite instruments to use in popular music, but is wholly underutilized. SfA is just a nice, peaceful, gentle album that is soothing to the mind and soul.
Overall I greatly enjoyed SfA. I liked the instrumentation’s restraint; there was enough variety and expanse to keep the songs interesting but not so over the top to make it not feel like fine folk music. I liked the references to Wes Anderson, in the lyrics, the musical style, and the cover art. Most of all, I really like Fowler’s voice and control, her authority behind the mic comes through, and I could listen to her sing all day. While you can “name your price” with this album, do the artist a solid and throw her some money. It’s worth your scratch, and my hope is she will keep making more music for all of us to enjoy!
Overall 7.5 / 10