Jed Ryan, PM Entertainment Magazine
AMY CLARKE: "After the Fall": A Review
It's only after repeated plays of Amy Clarke's debut album, "After the Fall", that the listener realizes just how much this New York City-based artist packs into each of the EP's five songs. Every one of the tracks on Clarke's CD is a bona fide masterpiece, starting strong and ending triumphantly. Without ever sounding heavy-handed, she incorporates such issues as respect for women ("Not Your Landscape"), the effects of war ("After the Fall"), the dangers of apathy ("Fight or Flight"), and the importance of social equality into her unique music. These aren't new issues, obviously, yet Clarke's lyrics and self-confident delivery make her a new, energizing crusader for social change in 2007 and beyond. To backtrack a little, it's Ms. Clarke's lyrics and voice on "After the Fall" that grab the listener immediately. An interesting comparison to Clarke would be her fellow artist Natalie Merchant. With Merchant, the listener always senses an undercurrent of restlessness and need for "reaching beyond" in her voice and delivery. Amy Clarke's style can be much in the same vein; at times, her voice incorporates a grittiness which matches the often serious subject matter in her music. Yet, Ms. Clarke also has another side: a more delicate delivery which has no trouble hitting those high notes. There's an interesting synergy between these two vocal styles that she uses-- often in the same song. As far as influences, Clarke clearly pays tribute to the ladies of alternative music that rose to prominence in the '90's, yet her artistic boldness and musical fearlessness propel her beyond genre and gender labels. Intentionally or not, Clarke also avoids the overly breathy style and fretfulness (some would describe it as "whininess") that a few culture vultures criticized those women of alt rock for.
The stark, somber title track, "After the Fall", was inspired by September 11th-- but specifically, it's a plea against reactionary response which marked the US after the attacks (and sadly persists today): "Now don't you lay your law down on me; we have been here before. I have no apologies, I will not play at war; Don't you lay your god down on me... We all have to find our own way, we only can find our own way; As long as we harm no one on the way, as long as we love we'll be OK..." Using only her voice and piano, the track is provocative and grand. The true mark of a seasoned pro, she doesn't need a band to back her up. Opening with a haunting piano piece, "Not Your Landscape" is a mid-tempo, stark anthem which should be subtitled "Not Without My Consent". The song's message aims right at the heart of one of the most basic tenets of freedom: that women should be treated as equals in sexual matters. Again, it's a decades-belated revelation, but it couldn't be more timely given our nation's fickle history of social and sexual equality. A very different mood is established with "Wolf". The dynamic track captures the moody and mysterious aura of the titular animal in its opening, and the song continues with serpentine and kaleidoscopic electronic effects throughout. The song, as described by Clarke herself, is about the nation's reaction to the results of the November 2004 election, although many different meanings can be and have been interpreted. "January Mourning" brings Clarke's unblemished vocals to the forefront. For this number, she makes the piano really sound alive. Despite its subject matter (the end of a relationship), it's not a song about defeat, but rather about strength. For "Fight or Flight", she hits her most impressive notes on the album, reinforcing the background spark which has possibly motivated all her causes-- the need for all of us to take greater social responsibility: "Don't say there's nothing left to do, Giving up is what they want from you; Fight or flight baby, What are you gonna do? Stand up for your rights, or simply turn off the lights; And hope that no one notices you..."
"After the Fall" is an album that only Amy Clarke could create. The singer-songwriter pays tribute to strong, independent women and the men and women who love them, reinforcing the need for love, equality, and tolerance for all. And while promoting these causes, she makes music that sounds really, really wondrous.