2010, Celeste Friedman
Celeste Friedman is a highly lauded singer/songwriter/composer whose work has been featured on Live! With Regis And Kelly; The Ghost Hunter; A Prairie Home Companion; National Public Radio; Music Choice and ESPN. A 2005 GRAMMY nominee, Friedman can lay claim to a #1 album, a GrIndie Award, Indie Track Of The Year Award, and a nomination for Artist of the Year in the Netherlands. Friedman is also a prolific author, with her most recent book, Single 101: 101 Reasons To Celebrate Being Single raising the curtain on her own life and the joys of going it alone. Concurrently, Friedman has written a collection of songs, also entitled Single 101, which serve as a musical companion to the book. Friedman digs deep into the emotions of joy and loss, using humor and insight to parse emotions and get to the simple truths that lay underneath.
Single 101 opens with "The Dribble On My Pillow", an amusing little ode to night drool done in a cute, classic pop style complete with hand claps. There's a certain cheese factor, but it's all tongue in cheek and entertaining. "Gotta Get It Right, Gotta Get It Straight" is all about trying to get your bearings, even taking time out from a relationship to find your true north. This is the proverbial foot out the door whose status as a relationship cliché doesn't mitigate its occasional truth. Friedman celebrates reclaiming her bed as her own in the wake of a relationship with "Mattress, Sweet Mattress”, a bit of hokey fun that will hit home with most anyone newly single. “The Fairytale” is a theoretical love song about what might be. The song is full of sweet sentiment but the performance comes off a bit flat.
“I’m Allergic To Ya Baby” is a slinky, jazz-styled number that sounds like something you might have heard on the old Dr. Demento show. Friedman gives it a good run vocally, but her voice just can’t quite carry this one off effectively. “I Can Change My Mind” underlines the classic line about a woman’s prerogative with a funky bass line and some of the best piano work you’ll hear in one of the best all-around tracks on the album. “Garlic Onions And Beans” is a seemingly melancholy and dark song about the classic wards against vampires. What could be funny comes off almost listless, bereft of energy. “My Bra And His Underwear” is a humorous take on the comingling of a couple’s undies in light of their fading shared libido. It’s a cute and funny bit of commentary in song that has the advantage of being informed by truth.
“Batteries Not Included” is an ode to the sort of products that make living on your own more bearable. In this funny little tune, Friedman explores the purchase of one such item from the internet, right down to getting dressed up for the delivery and the knowing grin from the UPS man. Everything comes together for Friedman on this number, from the vaguely nervous, almost Christine-Lavin style sense of humor to the musical arrangement. Friedman tackles such subjects are emotional eating (“I’m Pudding On Weight”) and the unintended side effects of garments from Victoria’s Secret (“Suddenly We’re All French”) before settling into a surprisingly serious love ballad entitled “This Time”. Here Friedman shows a bit of 1980’s pop/R&B pastiche in a tune that sounds like it should have charted twenty-five years ago.
“Three Little Words” is a bluesy number about a partner who just can’t say the right things, and leads into the woeful melancholy of “Taken Away”. It’s hard to discern exactly what Friedman’s intent is with this tune, but the musical approach is a bit off the beaten path and intriguing. Friedman slips her funny shoes back on with “Barbie’s Got The Blues”, projecting relationship troubles onto America’s favorite anatomically unlikely plaything. “Flying Solo” is a song of independence that throws off the shackles of expectation. Stylistically jazzy and fun, Friedman channels her inner Nellie McKay for one of the best turns on the album. Friedman closes with “Every Day Is Independence Day”, a song that touts the opportunities and possibilities made available by being single, delivered in a semi-big band style arrangement. It’s a nice closer that supports Friedman’s sense of celebration of singlehood.
Celeste Friedman mixes funny and serious moments on Single 101. As a stand-alone album Single 101 has enough light and dark to give a full reflection to the ups and downs of relationships and also of choosing to be on your own. As a soundtrack for Friedman’s book of the same name it is a sublime companion. Not every song here works on its own in much the same fashion that not every moment or phase of life works on its own. The musical ups and downs on Single 101 are quite comparable to those found in life, and so the album’s imperfections become an almost perfect reflection of the subject matter. If by design this is pure genius. If by accident then it is the sort of socio-musical accident that is the by-product of artistry. Either way, Single 101 is an entertaining farce that pauses to uncover some of the more serious truths that lay beneath its comical face.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)