Zerokilled Music, 2008
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/08/2009
Costanza Francavilla is a pop singer who bottles her natural amiable instincts and trades them off for some eccentricity, creating not only works of entertainment value but also going on an adventure to find that what unsettles her soul so that she is always kept on the edge. On her debut Sonic Diary, she seems at complete ease with what she has at her behest and what she seeks for, and she uses her powers and weaknesses to her advantage, resulting in an album that is as intricate and complex as Costanza herself.
This Italian-born singer’s wispy seductive vocals make her the perfect vehicle for the kind of sultry, downtempo pop numbers she writes. But she isn’t content with just telling the story the way it is. For her, entanglement is the ultimate pleasure. Hence, straightforward, lamenting pop songs like “I’ve Been Waiting For You” are few and far between on this record.
For Costanza, there needs to be more to life than just robotically reading verbatim the questions on US Immigration Form DS-156 on the mechanical Kraftwerk-esque electro-pop number “Just Another Alien.” She takes the subtle, stoic sarcasm of her impassioned rhythmic chanting of the words on DS-156 even further after the first couple of verses when her singing takes on a hysterical sneering temper, and the whole tone of the song is turned upside-down. In the end, the heat of resentment is left as potent as the coldness of apathy, and the whole essence of what could’ve been a straightforwardly snarky number is mangled in knotty indiscernible meanings.
As multifarious as are her emotions, so are Costanza’s musical abilities. Costanza is a master artist, and in addition to having written and produced the entire record, she has played nearly all of the instruments herself with just a little bit of help from a handful of guest musicians. And as much as she likes to challenge her emotional abilities in her songwriting, she pushes herself musically as well.
At times, she just lets her natural instincts out without trying to thwart them, resulting in brilliant, addictive pop numbers like “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and “In The Sun.” On numbers like “50 Bullets Fired In Queens,” “Back Into My Mother’s Womb,” and “Medicine,” Costanza chokes her instincts and creates something equally brilliant but in a different world altogether – a world far more darker and more sinister.
Sonic Diary has the makings of a sunny pop album but with the genes of the darkest trip-hop record. Costanza can be a sweet and sleazy in the same song, at the same moment, and there’s no way of seeing through her deception. She is just enough eccentric without getting excessive. If Sonic Diary were any less off-center, it would be stuffy with drudgery.