Sister Speak – The Stand
Sister Speak’s The Stand is a five song release with an added bonus track covering an impressive amount of musical ground in such a brief span. Now working out of Canada and Los Angeles, this British Columbia born project first emerged in 2014 and their new EP represents a significant step into the future. Singer Sherri Anne and producer Avli Avilav are co-writers on two of the tracks and she shares credit with guest singer Tolan Shaw on the EP’s bonus cut, but there’s no question that Anne is the primary reason why this unit has secured opening spots with important touring acts like Chris Isaak, Xavier Rudd, and Air Supply, among others, as well as winning an award for “Best Pop” at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards. The Stand sustains much of what has made Sister Speak so great, but there’s a new daring in these songs transporting both Anne and her listeners into a lusher musical environment than before.
“New York Sunrise” is the key number. I think Sister Speak wants to make a statement with this song and start the EP with a forceful opening curtain setting the stage for what follows. The Stand shows Anne and Avilav, along with their other collaborators, to be virtuosos of steady, near-symphonic builds. There’s some real rock muscle pushing the second half of this song along, but the pairing of Anne’s voice and the piano running through the song is critical for this performance to work. It works very well. “Fighter” pulls back a little, but there’s much of the same taste for the cinematic giving this a distinctive flavor. Some might find similarities between Tori Amos’ singing and Anne’s, but the overall experience of this EP shows Anne is a potentially once or twice in a generation vocal talent capable of bringing strength and sensitivity to a song in a flash and delving into vocal deep ends where few singers dare follow.
“Do You Believe?” is, arguably, the most radio friendly tune in the collection, but that’s no insult. There’s plenty of instrumental flash in this recording but, nevertheless, Anne and her collaborators never go overboard and reduce this near EDM number to total disposability. I hear a strong musical spine and structure under the superficial gloss and swaths of color other artists in this vein wouldn’t bother with. The title song will be a highlight for many and it is for me as Sister Speak pulls off an improbable union of pop and blues without ever leaving less scratching their heads or hitting skip. It’s Anne’s vocal peak, for sure, and she invests a wealth of emotion in this particular song. “Walls” is “New York Sunrise” and “Fighter” writ larger than ever before and the palpable urgency of the song balances out well with the obvious care taken with the arrangement to modulate and finely tune every passage for maximum emotional effect. The Stand wraps up with “Catch Me As I Fall” and it’s a muted, deeply felt conclusion to everything before especially notable for how well Anne duets with guest vocalist and co-writer Tolan Shaw. The Stand packs a deceptively wallop for such a truncated release and, even on first listen, leaves you as satisfied as any full length album will.