Laura Roppé – I’m Still Here
2010, Laura Roppé
When Laura Roppé broke out in 2008 with her debut album, Girl Like This, it looked like nothing could stop her. Grand reviews, a record deal in the UK and the sort of personal reactions from fans that build a lasting impression with a nascent fan base made it look like Laura Roppé was on top of the world. Then cancer came calling. The rare diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer might have appeared to have been a potentially cruel ending to a promising career path, but Roppé has never been the sort to give in. Just two years later, Roppé is healthy, happy and inspired. Her sophomore album, I’m Still Here, shows an artist reborn into her most primal self. I’m Still Here finds Roppé taking a step back to make a leap forward. The polish and power of Girl Like This is gone, but Roppé finds her inner voice on I’m Still Here. With the assistance of producer, cousin and Rx Bandits front-man Matthew Embree, Laura Roppé has created her most honest and personal work to date.
I’m Still Here opens with “Bail Yourself Out”, a catchy folk/rock/funk/soul number that’s part Bonnie Raitt. Roppé urges self-reliance in an urgently catchy tune that will get stuck in your noggin for days. “Heart Inside Your Palm” is an unusually honest and childlike song about the responsibility of holding another’s heart in your hands. There’s a cute quality to this song that’s almost trite, but that quality is overcome by the childlike simplicity of the song. “Little Stick Of Dynamite” is a song Roppé wrote about her youngest daughter; both a loving ode and a warning to the world at large, “Little Stick Of Wonder” is full of the blend of mother’s love and utter awe at the unfolding of a personality born from her own but so thoroughly distinct. “Woobie” is a simple love song using a child’s security blanket as the archetype for protection from the troubles of the world around us.
“Making A Living” is a catchy pop tune about living life in the moment and rising above the norm. “Daddy’s Little Angels” is an insightful tune about the push and pull between fathers and daughters, particularly once boys come into the milieu. Interestingly, Roppé seems to be writing about her husband and daughters while imprinting her own experiences as a daughter within the subtext of the song. This is among the best songwriting on the album. “She’s Gonna Change The World” finds Roppé opining on her oldest daughter and her serious, purposeful way of approaching the world around her. Full of a mother’s love, the song is a moving tribute.
Roppé’s battle with cancer helped produce her own personal “bucket list”, a concept playfully treated with in “George Clooney”. This smarmy little number is about living in the moment and having the audacity to dream your dreams no matter how outlandish they may seem. While not Roppé’s most polished songwriting, she gets points for honesty and for letting the song be what it wants to be. “I’m So Sorry” is a tongue-in-cheek instructional tune on the proper way to apologize to a woman. This is destined to be a crowd favorite in Roppé’s live shows, particularly for current and prospective Bunco girls. “No Place I’d Rather Be” is a simple, feel-good love song that’s in love and in the moment. This is one of the best pure melodies on I’m Still Here, and stands out for its uncomplicated approach to an honest and simple message that is too often glitzed and glossed to death.
“Butterfly Girl” is a song of love and support that’s heartfelt and warm. Mothers, sisters and others of that ilk will be touched by a tune both simple and deep in its truths. “Wage Peace” finds Roppé kicking tail in a soul-filled 1960’s rocker that delivers an aggressively pacifist message with attitude and oomph that’s sultry and powerful. Roppé is entirely in her element here, and shines like the sun. Roppé closes I’m Still Here with the raw and powerful title track. “I’m Still Here” is certain to be a cancer survivor’s anthem, and not surprisingly is Roppé’s most inspired performance on the album. It’s a kiss off song with an edge that’s unaffected but full of the power and grace of one who has persevered.
There will be those who listen to I’m Still Here and not get it. The album is not as musically consistent as Roppé’s debut Girl Like This, but there’s more to the story than that. Girl Like This was an explosion caused by the long-standing pressure of someone in their fourth decade who has finally found what they are meant to be doing. I’m Still Here takes that initial burst of enthusiasm and begins the process of channeling the creative energies that have always been there. This process was both complicated and catalyzed by Roppé’s battle with cancer. The end result is a startlingly honest and personal album from someone who has been quite literally ripped from her status quo and has subsequently given herself the freedom to dream. So while you may make the argument that Roppé;s songwriting isn’t as consistent on I’m Still Here, that isn’t so much a criticism as it is an observation. Roppé’s development as a songwriter has been given a mighty goose by circumstances beyond her control, and she is meeting the challenges of Becoming quite nicely. I’m Still Here is a celebration of life, of art and of a self newly-discovered. In it, Roppé is magically and musically human, bringing beauty and truth out of the darkness for all to see.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)