Purser, “Scholasticism” review

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https://pursermusic.bandcamp.com/album/scholasticism

Purser, otherwise known as Dana Purser Gary, is a dynamic singer/songwriter from Nashville who combines jazz, folk and pop influences together in a way that isn’t easy to describe. She is currently a junior at Washington and Lee University, neatly nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. She  released her debut EP, Scholasticism, on April 28 on Friday Underground Records. Here are my first impressions:

The album does A LOT in only six songs. Some of these things it does better than others. Overall, this is a very strong debut pop album with strong splashes of jazz and folk.  The folk-inspired tracks “Ways in Which You Are Like Traveling” and “Scholasticism” stand out the most. The first two tracks showcase the strongest jazz influences but can sometimes feel out of place. 

Pop music is an extremely small genre in the DIY world and Purser is a welcome addition with this strong and diverse EP. A track-by-track breakdown:

“Else” shows off Purser’s beautiful vocal range, perfect for jazz-infused music, as she sings delicately with the upbeat piano. The percussion starts to bleed in and form a fuller sound, however while the recording quality is good overall, the drums don’t feel as deep as they could and seem to be the only instrument on this record that I want more out of.

“Interrobang” starts with an upbeat piano and drum routine that Gary quickly comes soaring over with her booming vocals.  At points she sings deeper than seems needed at that point in the track and it can be jarring, but it also seems to be a part of her vocal character and another tool used to control the momentum of the listener.

The track hits its stride and crescendos with Gary belting “I will find comfort in nothing, I will make peace with my body, with my body, with my body!”

“Ways In Which You Are Like Traveling” was my favorite track so far. Her voice feels more natural with the weaving guitar. This song is more soothing and peaceful than the first two.

“Scholasticism”: The title track of a record always seems to hold more weight than others just from initial expectations. This song is no exception, and is a beautiful standout on the record. Church bells and ambient noise bleed into delicate strings and beautiful harmonies. This track truly showcases the vocal range of Gary without feeling out of place or jarring like on “Interrobang.” The mix on this track is also standout, as the ambient noise compliments the overlapping harmonies.

“8:45, one eleven” is a vocal acapella track that feels more like an interlude than its own standalone song. Strong harmonies, but no words makes it more ambient noise that feels like it is connecting the two tracks it rests between.

“Antithesis”: This is the closing track of the album. A beautiful piano ballad, a much stronger and cohesive song than the first two and where her pop influences really shine.

RIYL: Regina Spektor, Laura Marling, Norah Jones

Recommended tracks: “Ways in Which You Are Like Traveling” “Scholasticism”

–Christopher Hantman

 

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