Former Titus Andronicus and Hilly Eye member Amy Klein has just released her debut solo album, Fire. As a solo artist, Klein delivers more indie folk rock rather than Titus Andronicus’ brand of punk (though there’s still some edge in there.) With lyrics about growing up delivered over rich instrumentals, this is folk with a bit of bite. The New Jersey-based singer/songwriter/guitarist delivers her songs honestly in a well-produced, warm package that brings everything from Neil Young to Yellowcard to mind (explanations to follow.)
The strongest part of this album is the gorgeous instrumentals. Violin and banjo are incorporated into songs to give them a well-produced, intriguing sound. “You Are the One” gets this creepy surf sound with drums that sound like thunder rolling in the distance. “Ocean Grove” has beautiful strings and ends with a melody that immediately got stuck in my head after the first listen and lasted the rest of the day. The instrumentals are fully fleshed out, giving the album a rich feel to it. Though Klein can do some ethereal stuff with her voice on “Halfway” and “Parallel,” she doesn’t have the strongest voice. It’s kind of a Neil Young situation: it’s not the most marketable voice, but it’s this poet’s voice. Sure, she could have put on a breathy, ethereal voice for the whole album, but this voice goes better with heartfelt lyrics; it keeps things honest. I didn’t love every note, but I can see the bigger picture.
Outside of making music, Klein actually is a poet. You guessed it, she’s got some solid lyrics here. Fire was written over five years and covers a lot of twenty-something issues and growing up (she’s got to be a millennial.) The biting “Yes Men” is about two-faced friends who are more motivated by money than anything genuine; Klein threatens they’d better “find somebody else to make up your mind.” We’ve all been out during “Someone Else’s Night,” wherein we just fade into the background alone out at the bar or party rather than going home. Things can get introspective alone in that corner. “American City” is about standing up for yourself, but hits you in all the feels when Klein repeats “Why don’t you leave me?” “Ocean Grove” reminisces about meeting a former lover at a certain intersection, being near the water, drinking Everclear all night in a way that reminded me of Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue.” Can you blame me? I, too, am a millennial and there is a violin mixed in there. It was inevitable.
Admittedly, it took a few listens for me to get past some of the vocals. I was not a fan, and my early review notes claimed I’d never get over them, but I did (and genuinely came to like some of the vocals.) The more I listened to the words, the more I got it. Klein has created some beautiful songs with good lyrics. This album is well-arranged and produced, the rich instrumentals are worth a listen. So when you find yourself looking for an album to spend someone else’s night with, this could be a biting, introspective option.