Jeri Silverman – Leaflike
We live in increasingly cynical times and should do what we can to combat the tendency in ourselves. Familiarity does often breed contempt and the music world soon takes anything genuine and milks it into formula. Case in point – the female singer/songwriter. At this late date in 2016, we have a few archetypes, dumbed down with the hopes of scoring every last dollar. The sexualized pop star supported by a bevy of lawyers, producers, and songwriters while panting just enough for the camera to suspend the disbelief of viewers somehow convinced she might, under the right circumstances, be available. There’s the rocker chick songwriter, tattooed, invariably photographed in some variation of a “rawr!” pose intended to somehow demonstrate her rock and roll authenticity. The final example this review will offer up is the shy, sensitive songwriter with long hair and an acoustic guitar with achingly personal lyrics and a tortured yowl aimed for the hearts of twenty two year old women across the world. The success of these archetypes speaks more to the public’s need for them rather than the music world’s craven manipulation – the former shifts, morphs, and transforms while the latter stays the same.
Jeri Silverman defies these archetypes. She draws a little from each of them and brings her own personality to bear as a shaping force. The six songs on her latest collection Leaflike cannot be neatly labeled. The EP’s first three tracks draw liberally from the singer/songwriter tradition, modern and retro pop elements, and lyrical flights of fancy much more reminiscent of Joni Mitchell than Katy Perry. “Anywhere But Here” and “The Fever” are, arguably, the strongest of the EP’s opening trio. The former balances itself cleanly between two polar opposites – piano balladry and synthesizer driven pop music. The latter leans more heavily on electronica and pop elements in its backing track, but the eye-popping lyric makes excellent use of a number of literary devices and gets a masterful vocal from Silverman. Her vocal style is never unnecessarily dour or exuberant; these early songs make it abundantly clear that she is fully involved with every moment of the performances.
Acoustic guitar makes its presence felt more strongly on the second half of the EP. “Rabbit” and the title track are the chief beneficiaries of this added six string work, but Silverman isn’t content with indulging her folkie side. She continues bringing unexpected electronica influences into the mix and the resulting contrast helps present her lyrics in a much more dramatic way. The EP’s most surprising moment comes with her take on Fleetwood Mac’s longtime radio staple “Dreams”. Silverman, fortunately, never tries to mimic Stevie Nicks too strongly and even turns the arrangement in a different direction, stripping away the instrumentation from the original and stressing groove and affording her the proper space to sing from.
This is an interesting, well-structured album with solid songwriting and fantastic lyrics. Silverman’s vocals are more than able to carry the load and many will finish listening to this album feeling like we’ve only spotted the tip of the iceberg regarding her talents. Jeri Silverman isn’t a cliché and her EP Leaflike is a work of musical art.
9 out of 10 stars.