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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Sometymes Why - Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine

Sometymes Why - Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine
2009, Signature Sounds

I have been familiar with one-third of Sometymes Why for some time. Aoife O'Donovan is the beatific voice at the front of Crooked Still, whose album Still Crooked we have reviewed previously. Ruth Ungar Merenda (The Mammals) and Kristin Andreassen (Uncle Earl) were both new to me. When I sat down to listen to their sophomore effort, Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine, I expected high quality from what I knew of O'Donovan, but I have to say that I was blown away by Sometymes Why. Each member wrote and sings lead on three songs, with a shared harmony version of Concrete Blonde's Joey added in. Merenda, O'Donovan and Andreassen alternate songs, but I'll take them by singer/songwriter.

Ruth Ungar Merenda opens with Aphrodisiaholic, an amazing song with incredibly soulful vocals. This is a song that is destined to be covered from here to eternity. It's a love song and a come on all rolled into one, and Merenda is transcendent. This is a musical "Wow" moment you won't soon forget. Merenda gets into a Bob Dylan groove on Shine It. Her wonderfully textured voice supports a strong lyrical acuity. Merenda is a romantic (classical) story teller in song. Merenda's third contribution is Cold Feet Blues, in a performance that could have happened in Chicago night club circa 1933. Merenda is an amazing talent and shines on her contributions to Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine.

Aoife O'Donovan's silky smooth voice is a perfect complement to Merenda's when singing together, and an absolute pleasure to listen to when she's out front. Slow Down is a dark and moody composition that fits O'Donovan's voice perfectly. The song is very reserved and maudlin but with this deeply buried promise of something better to come. Diamond is a song that will appeal more to female fans than to us Neanderthal males, as the questions posed aren't ones that tend to go through our minds. But O'Donovan has managed to take a raft of questions that often occur in rapid fire succession without distinct answers and turn them into a rich and cogent lyrical tapestry. The arrangement is bare bones with gorgeous vocal harmonies from Merenda and Andreasson. O'Donovan's third contribution lends the album its title. Glorious Machine is a diva songwriting moment. O’Donovan sticks with her preferred minimalist arrangement style, working with Merenda and Andreasson to craft a rich vocal tapestry around an amazing lyrical concept.

Kristin Andreasson is the wildcard of Sometymes Why. The presumption is that Merenda's going to blow you away with raw talent and a level of vocal showmanship with few peers. O'Donovan writes gorgeous story songs and presents them with an earthy warm voice and natural arrangements that are as organic as they come. Andreassen has a knack for finding moments and making them come alive in her songs. My Crazy is a starkly beautiful and compelling musical play starring a victim of unrequited love. The character and mood that Andreassen builds both through her writing and performance is absolutely alive to the listener. The Stupid Kiss is about the consequences of crossing the friendship line. The protagonist thinks it can't happen to her, but it does, and Andreassen once again brings her alive. The Sound Asleep might be the most compelling composition on Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine. A lullaby for adults, Andreassen will lull you to sleep and walk you through a dream or two along the way.

The three voices that comprise Sometymes Why are a heavenly concoction. Songwriting aside, the vocal mix on Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine is an aesthetic, from the Wilson Phillips-esque cover of Joey to the ethereal layering of The Sound Asleep; you'll be floored by the sounds they achieve together. Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine is a powerful, moving and ultimately lovely record. Stylistically it's not exactly what you'd expect from Merenda, O'Donovan or Andreassen when with their usual bands, but you won't regret a moment. Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Don't miss this one, folks. It's made me want to go out and find their first CD.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Sometymes Why at or You can purchase a copy of Your Heart Is A Glorious Machine in Sometymes Why’s online store. You can also get a copy through If you’re into renting your music, you can pick up the MP3s through AmazonMP3 or iTunes.