Chances are this isn't the first time you've heard Brooke Fraser. From a guest appearance on a Tim Hughes' album, to her work as a member of Hillsong United, Fraser has diversified and involved herself in practically every musically creative facet she's been exposed to. Her first album, What to Do With Daylight went seven times Platinum in her home country of New Zealand, and her work with Hillsong has yielded some of their most favored tracks such as "Hosana." But it's her second solo album, Albertine, which will finally introduce North American audiences to Brooke properly. Rightly so - as the album features a near-flawless collection of her finest work.
A single chord rings out on piano, followed closely by Brooke's wispy vocals as the album opens with "Shadowfeet." Those minimal contrasting tones are even and foundational, giving eventual rise to drum taps, bass fills, and just the right amount of melodic guitar. But it's Fraser's voice that binds the unfurling sonic tapestry together. Her gently whispered moments are poignant and appropriate in every song, but it's her soaring choruses and rousing crescendos which elevate every composition. There are no perceivable weak points on Albertine. Even the songs dismissed early on develop a depth with each listen- as the balancing act between voice and instrumentation reveals itself to be more intricately woven and compositionally meticulous every time. Minimal strings and piano, or full experimentalist guitar effects and deleted beats, or just her voice and simple guitar - every song is crafted in ways no other arrangement could hope to deliver the same effect.
Fraser writes beautifully heartfelt poetry, draping the music around her words like a blanket. Her musings on the relationship between herself and her Savior bleed into realms more honest and sincere than many of her posturing contemporaries would dare to write. Longing for God's presence in a season He seems absent is a universal struggle- delicately touched upon in "Faithful." Contrasting, declarative strength embodies "Shadowfeet" and "Hosea's Wife"- which calls out, "We are Hosea's Wife / We are squandering this life / Using people like ladders and words like knives..." Personal hurt and relational longing are expressed in "Love is Waiting" and "The Thief," which are candid, but without bitterness. The title track is a story regarding Fraser's trip to Rwanda- sharing the name of the young girl she met there and a promise to use her music career as a means of spreading awareness.
Thematic content shifts from song to song- musically as well as lyrically- yet feels complete as a collection. Brooke Fraser is a masterful songwriter, whether in worship, or the longings of the heart, or sharing her life and times. Albertine is one of the most brilliantly expressive and musically well-crafted albums of its kind.- Review date: 6/24/08, written by David Goodman
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