Frondescence EP

Nicole Berke

Independent release, 2008

http://www.myspace.com/nicoleberke

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/25/2008

Listening to Nicole Berke’s Frondescence EP brings back memories of Lillith Fair and the female singer/songwriter movement of the 1990s.

But instead of just another woman with an acoustic guitar, Berke and the two guys who back her use bass, drums and organs to achieve an interesting and vital sound. Berke herself sings and plays a Wurlitzer – not the everyday instrument of choice for young women, as far as I know, but an excellent way to distinguish her.

Berke finished this disc in February 2008, the second of what will hopefully turn into a full-length release soon. Thanks to having two musicians for parents, Berke is trained in classical music but has an ear for pop, giving this EP the feel of a modern jazz release as seen by Fiona Apple.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opener “Come On” locks into a soulful groove with a twist as the Wurlitzer plays an ascending six-note riff that subtly propels the song. “Reasons” is less successful, a showcase for Berke’s high vocals (which are sporadically double-tracked for no apparent reason, as her voice is good enough to be unaccompanied).

“Blind Dumb & Deaf” is a fun little ditty, a story song sung effortlessly and handled with jazz drum aplomb by Rory O’Connor, who also plays organ. Jesse Cafiero handles the acoustic bass (and Berke’s press) nicely; he and Berke teamed up in 2005 at the University of Massachusetts and released a demo in 2006.

The two are now playing open mics in the Boston area, though they are too talented to be relegated to coffeeshops at this point. Berke’s songs are the right length and offer a good mix of jazz-pop with a singer/songwriter filter; they will satisfy nearly anyone who listens. “Fire” is evidence of this, crossing the vocal style of an Alanis Morrisette with Neko Case’s brilliant Fox Confessor Brings The Flood CD.

Closing out this disc and incorporating all that’s right about it is the title track, which boasts a slight Radiohead influence but remains upbeat even as the music swells behind Berke’s voice, with her singing louder and louder until the slow fadeout. It’s enough to make one want more and to distinguish Berke as a musician to watch – a distinction she has had in the Boston area for some time, and with good reason.

Rating: B+

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