Andriana Lehr – Artifacts
Andriana Lehr is much more than just a pretty face. This young singer and songwriter made a considerable splash in the indie world with the release of her 2013 debut album Try to Be True and her follow up, Artifacts, picks up the mantle of excellence from that release and expands on its possibilities. It’s a ten song collection that shows off a number of influences – Joni Mitchell, Brandi Carlisle, and Conor Oberst are among some of the discernible strains in her presentation, but she has her own voice that cuts through those influences and speaks with the authority of her personal experiences and emotions in a highly artful way. The production, handled by Owen Sartori and Davide Raso, does a superb job of capturing the countless details that Lehr imbues her songwriting with. Strings, brass, and instruments like pedal steel guitar and dobro are scattered over the track list and are all used to supreme effect.
“Outrun the Changes” begins the album quite well. It is a very evocative musical piece that Lehr patiently develops musically and vocally. The vocal melody, in particular, is excellent and provides a sharp hook for bringing listeners into the song. The subject matter doesn’t till any new ground, but it’s handled so well that it will resonate with a wide swath of Lehr’s audience, young and old alike. “Ashes in the Fog” sounds mired in a fog, but not in a negative way. The atmospherics reach a new height here but they are anchored by some interesting instrumental choices – namely the cello and dobro that fill the song with great musical moments. The lyrical material is some of Lehr’s most poetic on the album and never ornamental. David Goodstein’s drumming is another exceptional component in this song and never overreaches in setting a tone for the performance.
Steve Goold’s drumming turns “Catch 22”’s shuffle into an intense, low-key musical workout. The pedal steel offers up a ghostly touch in this song and Lehr’s understated singing neatly dovetails into the instrumentation. Lehr demonstrates real songwriting talent by taking a hoary cliché and revitalizing it with her creativity. The lead guitar and tenor sax on the song “Bright Yellow Lights” help give it a great theatrical sense without ever seeming self-indulgent. Lehr’s haunted vocal is quite thoughtful and provides an excellent counterpoint to the unusual playing. A string quartet makes its presence felt for the second time on the album during the song “Halfway Home” and helps create an intensely felt, highly artistic picture for the listener. The melancholy at work here is tangible, but it never feels put on.
“Streets of Saint Paul” is one of the album’s finest tracks thanks to its immediacy and its marvelous construction. The movement in the song from it being a solely acoustic piece is orchestrated quite well – when David Goodstein’s drumming comes in; it hits all of the right marks, and other instruments like Cory Grossman’s cello make it even better. Andriana Lehr’s Artifacts is a fantastic musical work that ends just as strongly as it begins.
8 out of 10 stars.