One of the criticisms frequently leveled at singer-songwriters is that their songs “all sound the same.” It’s a Catch-22 for pop artists: they need to create a recognizable ‘sound,’ but have to avoid a musical kind of typecasting. Happily, Rachael Sage isn’t content with sameness, but strives to put an indelible stamp on a variety of styles. On Sage’s latest, Chandelier, she adroitly deploys the recognizable elements of her material – punchy rhythms, swooning melodies, delicately shaded harmonies – into arrangements for a variety of forces.
“Vertigo” and “Beloved” are principally dramatic piano ballads (with excellent support from cellist David Eggar), while “Invincible” adds layered backing vocals and a full band to the proceedings. But some of Sage’s best moments on the CD are the songs “Angel in my View” and “Moonlight and Fireflies,” where she explores ‘blue-eyed soul,’ enlisting a horn section and a fine crew of backing vocalists. Sage’s singing is at its most supple and her keyboard voicings elegantly adopt the lilt and swing of the style; demonstrating that each arranging choice has been incorporated organically, not just for the sake of difference. It leaves one simultaneously wanting more of this strand of her music-making and confident that Sage has still more surprises in store.