I enjoy many genres of music, but as it gets harder to keep track of all the sub-genres that are popping up nowadays, I find it easier to simply divide music into two categories: “good music” and “bad music.” Some people enjoy only one or two types of music, but I enjoy all kinds, as long as it fits into the “good music” category, that is. In addition, as musicians, my band mates and I enjoy playing many different styles of music.
That’s why I was intrigued when I came across Laura Pursell’s Somewhere In This Room. The album is a collaboration between singer and lyricist Laura Pursell and composer Andrew Bonime, and is a unique project for two reasons. The first is that it consists of songs in many different musical styles; there’s jazz, rock, blues, bossa nova, gospel, and even a children’s song. As a music lover, I admire Pursell and Bonime for making no distinctions among different music styles for this album other than the “good music”/”bad music” distinction.
The second reason it’s unique is that the album isn’t so much “a collection of songs” as it is “a book made up of songs.” You have to listen to it from beginning to end. It even has an overture and a finale arranged by famous composer, arranger, and pianist, William Pursell, who is also Laura’s father. Every single song has a story to tell, and while I was listening to the album I had the curious feeling that I was reading rather than listening to it. It was as if I were reading a book of short stories, and the songs were the chapters of the book, and the book was Laura Pursell’s diary.
Set to Bonime’s music, Pursell’s lyrics are based on her experiences and her accounts of those experiences in her diaries. From falling in love, in the rock number “It Might As Well Be Magic,” to heartbreak in the dark and somber “Not Much To Lose,” and running away from love in the bittersweet ballad “Skywriting Neon Lights,” and from the death of a close friend, in “My Heart Knows You Were Here,” to her experiences as a child trying so desperately to fit in, in “A Maple Tree,” Pursell tells her stories in her meaningful lyrics. My favorite tracks are the title track, “Somewhere in This Room,” and “When You Come Down,” which both tell very interesting stories.
Pursell’s talent for writing beautiful lyrics is matched perfectly with Bonime’s ability to create beautiful music and melodies, resulting in an incredibly unique album that is such a pleasure to listen to. The only thing I thought could be improved upon was Pursell’s singing.
Fortunately, Pursell is blessed with an unusual voice; there’s a happy, joyful tone to her voice that few singers have. When I was younger, my father, who’s also a music lover, pointed this trait out to me while we were listening to The Corrs, my favorite band at the time. Andrea Corr, the lead singer, has that joyful tone in her voice that comes out even when singing sad songs; although you can hear the somber emotion in her voice, the joy is also there. The only other singers my father knew with that tone, before he heard Andrea Corr, was legendary Chinese singer Teresa Teng, and the equally legendary Karen Carpenter. Now we can add Laura Pursell to that exclusive list.
Unfortunately, while she has that tone, she doesn’t seem to know how to use it as well as the other singers I mentioned. I thought that her singing was quite flat and emotionless at times. Her lack of color and dynamics are most apparent in the song “It Might As Well Be Magic” – or perhaps she’s just not meant to sing rock songs. I do hope she cultivates her singing talent though, it would be such a shame to waste that wonderful voice of hers.