Earth Tourist

Kira Sheppard

Independent release, 2014

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Kira Sheppard is a solo singer-songwriter like no other. While a guitar is almost implied as the instrument of choice for a singer-songwriter, this St. John’s (Newfoundland) Canada-based artist plays the harp! Now, when was the last time – if ever – that one came across a harp-based pop album? There is simply no precedent for this. So, is the best one could expect from such an album, some kind of bizarre New Agey fluff, perhaps? Actually, no. Earth Tourist is in fact a very accessible album, and a pretty cool one, too. It is as elegant and enjoyable as it is fascinating.

Sheppard’s creative endeavors are quite something. She is a classically trained harpist from the age of eight. Her artistic involvement has been diverse to say the least, from stage acting to burlesque and improv comedy. Suffice to say, Sheppard is quite the character. This vivid personality of hers certainly rubs off on her music, starting with the title of this album itself, which doesn’t really do much to conjure up the image of the harp; instead, it’s reminiscent of some sort of fantasy B-movie.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The instrumentation on Earth Tourist is literally sparse. For the most part, the only musical accompaniments to the harp are a cheap drum-machine and Sheppard’s vocal harmonies. It is very clear that Sheppard is on a budget here with this self-produced effort. But what she does with this album, given the “poor indie artist” budget, is pretty praiseworthy. Without trying to create an album that attempts to overreach musically – which would be within Sheppard’s musical skills but not within the meager production values of the album – Sheppard has created an album that is stripped-down and elegantly produced for what it is.

For an album that has the harp as the focal musical instrument, Earth Tourist doesn’t sound as dainty and mannerly as one would expect. Sheppard consciously doesn’t let the exoticness of the harp overshadow her as a performer, and she deals with this rebelliously. In contrast to the softness of the harp sound, her singing is quirky and unrefined, like a demure version of Kim Deal, which fits well with the “nonconformist” attitude of this album.

Earth Tourist is a well-mannered, cathartic album for Sheppard. From the goofy cover with Sheppard wearing headgear made of papier-mâché like she was portraying an alien queen from some appalling ‘60s science-fiction movie, to the totally weird combination of the harp and electronic music performed with unapologetic dorkiness, there is nothing in the album that even remotely resembles the prim and proper image of a harp player. Her attitude is best exemplified by the hilariously sarcastic song “Background Music,” which finds her ridiculing herself as a mere harp player playing at parties where no one really notices her as a person, her harp gently playing the lulling role of background music. This album shows her proclaiming that there is more to her than just this strange inanimate object that she is attached to, and her spirit is simply fabulous!

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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