Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Brooke Fraser “Flags”

New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser is running a new one up the pole called “Flags”. Once called "The Kiwi Norah Jones”, Fraser signed with Sony Music in 2002 at just 18 years of age and her debut record, “What To Do With Daylight” went to number one on the New Zealand charts and quickly went gold, then 8x platinum. She toured in Australia and New Zealand with John Mayer and David Bowie. She is pinning hopes that “Flags” continues to expand her audience, and she seems poised to do so with a debut on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart at #59.

Fraser has an angelic soprano voice that floats upon dreamy soundscapes as she spins yarns of varied characters. “I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record,” Fraser says.

The upbeat opener, “Something In The Water” is the standout track (video below), combining straightforward pop with a bit of country folk swing. The chorus is catchy, helped by a memorable chant from backing vocalists. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the record generates about as much excitement as that boring cover art up there. The tunes are beautifully sung and the record has fine production value, but the songs are just far too sleepy. Even “Here’s To You”, presumably a celebratory drinking song, comes across with weighted melancholy and insincerity – Fraser must be a real party pooper. Fans of Aqualung will want to check out “Who Are We Fooling?”, a duet co-written by Matt Hales. “Who Are We Fooling?” is one of the most earnestly performed, and will pull at the heartstrings of those stuck at similar romantic crossroads. Another highlight is “Sailboats”, which features a sparse acoustic and string arrangement that allows Fraser’s delicate voice to shine throughout this lovely piece.

Check out Brooke Fraser if you are a fan of Sarah McLachlan, Dolores O’Riordan, or Paula Cole. “Flags” is a record best played for relaxation or if you are suffering from insomnia.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 8

Brooke Fraser on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Something In The Water”: