LOCAL CD REVIEW: “I Am Here” and “Who I Am” by Andrea Szirbik

On the surface, the two albums Andrea Szirbik released under her own name, I Am Here and Who I Am make for great listening on a lazy summer afternoon. The music is slow to mid-paced, calm, and devoid of many surprises. However, if one scratches a little deeper there’s plenty of emotion throughout, sometimes providing an intensity that listeners might not realize they’re catching at first. Both albums compliment each other; indeed, listening to one right after another doesn’t leave one feeling like they were two separate albums at all.

Instrumentation is simple throughout, focusing on bright sounding acoustic instruments such as guitar and ukulele for most of the time. They nicely compliment Szirbik’s passionate vocals which range from chipper (“Yellow,” “Puddle Jumper”) to somber(“I Am Here [Bryan’s Song], “Seattle”), depending on the mood of the song. Occasionally the vocals on I Am Here feel almost breathless while still technically proficient; they become more confident-sounding on Who I Am. The atmosphere for each song is always appropriate without feeling over-the-top. There are a few exceptions—the eletric guitar on the song “Rosemary” from I Am Here stands out too much in the mix, and the haunting organ on “Men Like You” from Who I Am takes some getting used to. In neither case the musician is at fault nor do they make the music hard to listen to. In fact, there’s very little tweaking needed as far as production goes throughout each album.

In a collection of music which is already bright it’s the songwriting that shines the most. The composition is simple and catchy yet always emotive. As a result it’s possible to get one of Szirbik’s songs stuck in one’s head throughout the day. She describes her music as “folk with a twist,” which means while she uses American Folk music as a base while incorporating influences from rock, pop, country and so on, which is perhaps where the catchy sensibility stems from. It’s also easy to not get caught up on trying to peg which genre one is listening to at any given time. Sometimes it’s obvious, such as the gospel-laden “No Fear” from I Am Here. For the most part, however, an Andrea Szirbik song is an Andrea Szirbik song, and one enjoys it as an expression of the artist more than anything else.

At the end of Who I Am are two bonus tracks, re-recordings of “Yellow” and “Housewife” which both appeared on the album she recorded with Sultry Dessert back in 2011. Personally, I think I prefer the Sultry Dessert version of “Housewife” (which was released with the longer title “Housewife Run Amok”), as it has a more energetic band feel. However, as far as I know the one Sultry Dessert album, Inside Your Head isn’t available on CD anymore; the only way I know how to listen to it is here. (If any of the band members of Sultry Dessert would like to correct me on this, feel free to leave comments below.)

To find out more information on these albums as well as what Szirbik is up to these days, including new music, live performances and her band Andrea’s Spectacles, check out her website here.

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