Sometimes, and not very often, you come across an album that is like a secret garden with gems scattered about – rubies, diamonds, emeralds. You pick one up and it sings to you. Delightful. So you choose another and another and another – and soon you have an arm full of musical gems. Such a collection of gems is Green Lights, by Mindy Amelotte, a.k.a. Dynamite Motel.
The album title song opens with a cadence that puts a strut in your step and a smile on your face, the single drum beat and guitar comp lead into a muted New Orleans style solo trumpet which together, create a bright airy feel. This belies the tune’s context of absence, longing and anticipation “…reaching for you, knowing that you’re gone…” although, a longing eventually fulfilled “…And by suppertime, I know you’re not far behind / To fill my world with all your bright sunshine…”, because she’s “…the woman who can pull my fire alarm…”.
Green Lights is mostly about being in love – the small quiet ecstasies of love, those empty spaces of love where one feels the pang of the others’ absence when the worlds’ responsibilities call her away, and the exquisite cocoon of love the two create when together – and all written and executed superbly. The intimacy woven into these are songs allows you to make them your own, to effortlessly imagine that you could say, feel, and be as Mindy does and is.
There are songs which speak of things besides love, such as Sweet Music…
Let’s untangle all our worries and stretch out this string in time
Let’s make it move and jump and swivel and bump up
Let’s pluck it like a sweet bass line
It’s time to show, break out your fro, prove that you know you’re feeling free
It’s time to dance, it’s now our chance, let’s now enhance and smoke some green
It’s this sweet, sweet music got me tied up, I can’t get free
…and Spokes (which is about riding a bicycle …I think …or not)
I want to feel weightless and free with no plans
Throw caution and ride with no hands
Let the bicycle seat and the air carry me
To a warm place with you in the sand
I’m unravelled and spinning my chains coming loose
Lost my jokes through the spokes and my smiles aloof
No this ain’t me by tomorrow you’ll see
That the bike oh it helped me break free
Mindy blends the state of being in love into all these tunes, whether consciously or not, giving them subtle dimensions beyond a cursory initial listening. She almost seems to say that the state of ‘being in love’ permeates everything and everybody.
This latest collection of compositions is more ‘mature’ than Dynamite Motel‘s self-titled EP or Muses in the sense that Mindy is much more accessible on this album. It has the simplicity and sparseness of Muses and the sophistication of the EP, but is neither overly polished nor raw. A theme runs through Green Lights and songs flow naturally from one to the other, creating a cohesive musical excursion through Mindy’s state of emotions and mind when conceiving the album.
A word here must be said about the poetry, not lyrics …poetry. Mindy’s ‘wordsmithing’, though quite fine on her former releases, is more ‘airy’, in that the words and phrases seem to have flowed naturally from her, rather than having been otherwise thought-out or forged (…not saying that her previous work was, this is just the feel of this cd). They reveal the ‘her’ at the time of inspiration and composition, they never feel forced into or bent to the music. As well, there are clever turns of phrases at times which are simply delectable, such as…
Let’s leave behind these cold dark streets
Where lonely hearts search for relief
And you could decorate my sheets
(Melt Me Down)
I’ll paint you polarized
Make you shine in blue and orange light
I’ll make you shine and glow
The way you make me feel inside my soul
(Off The Page)
Looking back now it seems you capsized me
But the cold of the water gave me clarity
There are layers of meanings in certain metaphoric phrases that Mindy writes when set in different contexts, such as “the cold of the water gave me clarity” has one group of implications and nuances when referring to boating and quite another when set in the context of love when one is ‘being dumped’. And “you could decorate my sheets“, well… I’ll leave this one to your imagination.
The instruments present are varied and utilised sparsely, yet are just what is necessary for each composition as a whole – no more, no less – and fit the song perfectly, like the soft snare-drum brushwork of Melt Me Down or using just two guitars on the bluesy Heavy World or the solo ukulele on Spokes. A departure comes on Without You, whose backing electronics initially reminded me of the English avant-garde synthpop group, Art of Noise (…don’t ask me why).
Mindy is forefront present though, her voice confident and clear, melding with each tune from a swinging looseness on That Swing to a sultry innocence on Melt Me Down to the electronic enhancements on Without You.
You could classify Green Lights as Jazz, but it isn’t, or as R&B, but it isn’t, or as Blues, but again …it isn’t. It has interwoven elements of all of these, and possibly a touch of Trip-Hop, but it arrives as much more than the mere sum of its styles or elements. It is distinctly and positively, Dynamite Motel…
…and it is completely and unequivocally sweet sweet music.
Green Lights official launch party will be on Saturday August 22, 2015 at 10pm at the Atomic Rooster (303 Bank St.) as part of the Grass Hawk Local Toons Music & Art Sessions, and features local rockers Emmas Ringer playing a special unplugged set, singer/songwriter Jess Cole, and Peter Purdy performing live art.
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