Callie Hopper – Out of the Shadows
Callie Hopper’s second album finds her building well on the merits of her debut album, 2014’s Notes on Love and Such, yet expanding on its sonic base with a thoughtful and often exciting blend of multiple styles. Artists the caliber of Callie Hopper will not be pigeonholed. Their deep toolbox of skills allows them to cross genre lines and mix styles up with little to no forethought about potential clashes because they have the taste and aplomb to carry it off. Out of the Shadows is a thirteen song collection that might seem, superficially, to run a little long, but Hopper’s intent is clear – this is a full blown attempt to impress the widest possible audience and Hopper succeeds spectacularly well in that respect.
She begins the album with the title song. It’s equal parts singer/songwriter bliss with assertive, even slightly rock geared, drumming and ample melodic virtues. Hopper does an excellent job with her vocal, combining sensitivity with an appealing amount of grit. Hopper works with band member Chad Alexander when composing this album, but Out of the Shadows’ second track, “Stay”, comes from Hopper alone. It is a beautifully wrought ballad that gradually rises into a rousing, emotionally powerful conclusion. The acoustic guitar work that lays the melodic bedrock for so much of this album shines very brightly here. Alexander duets with Hopper on the third song, “Fire and Ice”, but despite the relatively formulaic nature of the song’s title and imagery, Hopper and Alexander give this song quite a distinctive spin thanks to the impossible to duplicate interplay between their voices. “Beautiful” certainly gives “Stay” a run for its money as the album’s best ballad, but this is undoubtedly a purer example of the form that eschews the eventually big pop climax in favor of keeping things intimate, muted, and considerably more nuanced.
“I Never Told You” has a gentle push that fits its title and content well. There’s certainly a bittersweet quality fueling this song, but Hopper and the musicians never overplay that quality. Instead, deceptively simple songs like this take a more suggestive approach./ “Wishful Thinking” is another of the album’s grander moments. Opting, this time out, to build the track around piano instead of guitar helps the song stand far apart from the surrounding cuts. There’s a epic pop feel, akin to some of Elton John’s best material, and it’s equally informed by a smattering of blues influence that deepens the soulfulness. “This Song’s Not For You” is, frankly, the album’s natural single. The lyrical content is funny without ever pandering and Hopper delivers her most charismatic singing performance yet. Hopper plays with another genre, this time the classic country tearjerker, on “Goodbye”. She mixes some of the epic pop strains heard in earlier tracks like “Stay” and “Wishful Thinking” while still presenting a dramatic narrative she slowly unfolds for listeners with a deliberate, but deep feeling vocal. Out of the Shadows is one of the year’s most satisfying musical experiences regardless of genre and carries a lot of appeal for both casual music listeners and more devoted fans.
9 out of 10 stars.