Sometimes you’ve got to indulge your musical sweet tooth. Petits Bisous, the second album from cellist-singer-songwriter Erin Hall, is filled with tiny, witty songs designed to put a smile on your face. Her music is largely in the 50s/60s doo-wop template, with peppy piano lines, wandering stand-up bass lines, and light female backup vocals, an aesthetic that pairs very well with the twee stories she tells.
Hall, who performs with an 7-piece band as Erin and Her Cello, has made a name for herself with her infectiously fun live performances, thanks to her bubbly stage presence and stand-up-comedy lyrics. In her debut album, she sang about a Duane Reade cashier with freakishly large nails, going to the zoo, and falling in love on the subway.
Petits Bisous uses a similar template. The opening song, “Rebound Magnet,” is a peppy ode to being a relationship also-ran, backed with piano and jazzy sax. Hall sings in a rapid-fire, breathy style that at times makes it hard to understand what she’s saying, but as a whole it’s a bright, high-energy opener.
The rest of the songs continue in the same mold. In “Google Stock,” a joyfully avaricius Hall starts out asking for the title item as a birthday present – “It doesn’t have to cost a lot/’cause if you’re smart it was already bought/before the recession.” “Breakdancin’ Man” relates the common NYC subway experience of tolerating foul-smelling dancers on your subway ride, while “Walk of Fame” covers the trip home after a one-night stand.
As with her first album, there’s a song entirely in French – “Bonbons Chocolat” – and while some find the lyrical nature of the French language quite beautiful, I think it’s a bit of misstep. Though the title evokes the melt-in-your-mouth treats that most songs on the album resemble, the fact that the song is in French robs it of the on-the-nose cleverness that drives most of her music.
Among this batch of pretty trifles is one truly beautiful and poignant gem: “2 Good 2 B True.” Despite the unfortunate title, probably meant to evoke a text message, it’s slow jam in the doo-wop mold, about a hipster boy-girl meet-cute on New Years’ Day (“tall and lanky with a boyish smile/a touch of awkwardness to drive me wild”), with concertina and vibraphone. Her airy voice perfectly complements the bittersweet tone of the track, and it all gels beautifully.
The final track, “Just Maybe,” again finds Hall in a more romantically serious mode, and it’s another winner. This time, a bowed cello finally makes an appearance, and it’s beautiful – which raises the question: why isn’t there more cello on this album? A cello player since she was 8, Hall has a beautiful sound, but the album is sparsely populated by finger-plucked cello apart from the final track.
In the end, this a fun, lighthearted album filled with songs that wouldn’t be out of place at a children’s birthday party or a Williamsburg dinner party. Hall shows tremendous promise as a songwriter and a lyricist, as long as she continues to rely on her cello talent and skill for a clever turn of phrase.
New York City-based Erin Hall proves that a bit of attitude can be a good thing. Like early Christine Lavin, Hall features urbane, quirky, and insouciant observations of life, the city, and popular culture. Lavin is a folkie, but Hall draws from girl groups, vintage French pop songs, jazz, calypso, blues, and rock and roll. Erin and Her Cello is the name of Hall’s band and she does indeed play the cello, but you’ll also hear everything from boogie-woogie piano to glockenspiel.
“2 Good 2 B True” has a Twittery name, but it is girl groups retro, complete with oooh-aaahh backup singers. “The Doctor” also has a girl group feel, but the instrumentation is ’50s style rockabilly supplemented by wailing sax. Satire tempered by charm is Hall’s metier, as she demonstrates on “Break Dancin’ Man,” a sardonic send-up of look-at-me performance. She also wields her lampoon harpoon on “Google Stock.”
Hall shuffles between styles like a Vegas dealer–as befits one whose musical inspirations include Peggy Lee, Cole Porter, and Serge Gainsborough. Each of them gets an airing. “Chaz” is soulful, cool jazz, whereas “Damn” moves to the black keys to lend a faint air of danger. If that doesn’t float your boat, there is Gainsborough-like French pop (“Bonbons Chocolat” and the call-and-whistle title track). How about some bouncy pop? Inappropriate attraction has never been so giddy as “Rebound Magnet.” Too sweet for your taste? Try the rocker “Walk of Fame.”
This release sparkles with wit, audacity, and boisterous fun. Score one for attitude.
Erin And Her Cello is a quirky, catchy, and classically-trained music group headed by Erin Hall. Erin is joined by others on piano, sax, keyboards, drums, harpsichord, vibraphone, melodica, glockenspiel, and clapping on her latest release translated as “little kisses.” The poignant melody of “The Doctor” is something straight out of the 1950′s or 60′s. The vocals are pop-focused and somewhat reminiscent of the Dala Girls. The content is rather comical and playful at the same time. The music is pop-oriented, but it contains a variety of instruments that give it a worldly-tone that is very endearing. The sweet melodies and vocals are right at home with the New York-based musician’s French cafe music style. The metropolitan cellist combines a heady mix of tunes that only last about thirty-six minutes long. At any rate, the music is top notch and very welcoming. Buy it today! ~ Matthew Forss
This week, our tune “Petits Bisous” is featured in an online voting contest, located HERE at KillerArtist.com.
You can vote once every 24 hours, and the contest lasts all week– VOTE ERIN AND HER CELLO! ! !
Merci beaucoup, happy listening, and have a LOVELY week!!!!!