Amanda Thorpe's prior work has already won her an enviable reputation for emotionally forthright performances and organically intimate, effortlessly accessible songcraft. With Promenade, her first new release in three years, the English-born, New York-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist raises the stakes and emerges with her most inspired and accomplished music yet. Such musically and emotionally resonant tunes as 'Bar Tabac,' 'Waking Up In Brooklyn' and 'Goodbye' exemplify Thorpe's moody melodicism, lyrical insight and bittersweetly evocative vocals. The latter song-appears on Promenade in a spare solo performance recorded in the artist's bedroom-showcases the intimate expressiveness of Thorpe's voice, which is the perfect vehicle for her songs' explorations of love and it's challenges. Thorpe's singing is equally persuasive on her uplifting reading of the Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg pop standard 'It's Only A Paper Moon,' whose message of romance and faith makes it an ideal match for her own compositions. The qualities that make Promenade so memorable will already be familiar to anyone familiar with Thorpe's prior work, which includes her acclaimed solo efforts Mass, Union Square, and Too Many Spirits, as well as her collaborative work as a member of the Wirebirds and the Bedsit Poets. 'Several of the songs' Thorpe observes, 'were inspired by various significant, but challenging relationships, and the struggles until some form or acceptance, or understanding is achieved. The title Promenade is from 'Bar Tabac' that refers specifcally to the Brooklyn Promenade, however, a lot of the other songs are set roaming around Manhattan, Central Park, and other places. The title also represents the contemplation, musings and wanderings of the mind." Thorpe co-produced Promenade with seasoned studio pros Brad Albetta (Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson)-who also co-produced Union Square-, and Don Piper (Lilys, Silos, Bedsit Poets). The album also features songwriting collaborations with noted New York tunesmiths Philip Shelley and Craig Chesler, as well as Thorpe's Wirebirds bandmate Peter Stuart. In addition to Thorpe's own vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards, she draws upon a stellar assortment of New York musicians, including guitarist Tony Scherr (renowned for his work with the likes of Norah Jones, Feist and Bill Frisell), bassist Rob Jost (Josh Ritter, Elizabeth & the Catapult) and keyboardist Matt Trowbridge (Bedsit Poets, Robbers on High Street). 'I almost titled this album Attend to Your Dreams,' Thorpe notes. 'Dreaming is important and necessary, something that shouldn't be lost or put aside amongst the trials and tribulations of life and romance. I have very vivid and active dreams, which can be exhausting, but I also went through a period of feeling like I had no day dreams and that was significantly worse. We all need hopes and dreams. They keep us alive.' REVIEW: Amanda Thorpe's Promenade: Stunning and Seductive by delarue, New York Music Daily Amanda Thorpe has been a somewhat more elusive presence in the New York music scene lately, but the British expat singer/multi-instrumentalist continues to put out tremendously captivating albums. Her new one, Promenade, is a little more melodically diverse, less overtly dark than her 2008 masterpiece Union Square. As usual, the vocals are astonishing. By turns seductive, aching and charming, Thorpe can still say more in a single wounded bent note (or a raw, soul-infused wail) than most singers can communicate in an entire album. This time around, although most of the songs here are more straight-up rock, she's followed her jazz muse into territory that most singers simply can't reach: it's not just a matter of chops, it's a matter of soul, and Thorpe has both. The attractiveness of the tunes often belies a darker undercurrent. Bar Tabac, which is essentially the title track, bleakly traces a woman's steps from Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Promenade, daydrunk on bloody marys, alone and miserable, while the band swings along on a jaunty bossa nova bounce lit up by Ray Sapirstein's blithe trumpet. Monica Says, by Philip Shelley (who also serves as co-writer on the poppier numbers here), sets a portrait of a woman insisting she'll never be happy again against crunchy Willie Nile-esque powerpop with some snarling slide guitar by Tony Scherr. Thorpe's hypnotically gorgeous layers of vocals give the Nashville noir of Once Lovers and Bury It a creepy David Lynchian edge, while Harold Arlen's Paper Moon gets reinvented as edgy urban country. And the jaunty closing track, Aloha Bobby and Rose, is the best song here. It's got all the elements of a classic retro pop hit: a singalong, anthemic, country-tinged tune, and just enough imagery to keep the listener on pins and needles waiting to find out how this particular story of a drunken evening ends. When Thorpe finally cuts loose at the end, the impact is viscerally chilling. The vocals on several numbers here are transcendent. On What Love Is (no relation to the Dead Boys classic), she's torchy, and tender, and spine-tingling against Matt Trowbridge's tersely echoey Fender Rhodes electric piano and Rob Jost's slinky, soaring bass. It's hard to resist Thorpe's logic here: ""Try to believe in the dreams that you're dreaming, that's how they come true." The country-tinged Amber pairs sultry, crystalline vocals with gentle ukulele from Craig Chesler, while Catching the Light builds from a wintry backdrop to a towering crescendo. When Thorpe asserts that "I would walk until sunrise if you needed me to," she owns it: it's impossible to believe otherwise. And Goodbye, with it's oldtime swing sophistication, wouldn't be out of place in the Moonlighters catalog. And not everything here is all white-knuckle intense,either. Waking up in Brooklyn dares a guy to walk away from his daily drudgery, while Hey Hey Hey is an irresistibly cajoling, playful, indelibly New York song - Thorpe wants some fun, maybe a walk up Museum Mile and then a stop for biscuits and tea and she won't accept no for an answer! What else is there to say about this artist that hasn't been said already: tremendous singer, tremendous material, someone you should get to know if you haven't already.
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