Kaela Sinclair is no stranger to the Surviving the Golden Age site; she’s previously been called “Texas’ answer to Regina Spektor or the next Jenny Lewis.” While these comparisons create large shoes to fill, Sinclair doesn’t disappoint, providing quiet singer-songwriter charm with a part-folk, part-self-deprecating personality. Her debut LP showcases this nicely, chronicling her melodramatic indie pop narrative.
One of the most refreshing things about the album is its variety. While Sinclair’s vocals and attitude tie everything together, each song isn’t afraid to do its own thing. “The Realist” might be the non-cliché answer to a typical conception of “female musician,” speaking to the modern individual with a tune that harnesses both the lyrical quips of a blogger and catchy melodies akin to Sara Bareilles but with a less annoying commerciality. “Lock and Key” finds Sinclair crooning over a groovy organ background that sounds like a supergroup comprised of Copeland and the Black Keys playing in a speakeasy. (Don’t worry––it sounds better than it looks.) It’s almost a throwback to the power ballads of the eighties, concentrating the sound like a raging bull in a cage. “Better” shows Sinclair’s more jazzy side and would be right at home as the PA music in a coffee shop on a rainy day. It’s a story within the larger story of the record, beginning with quaint acoustic reflections and ending with swooning vocals that could nearly pass for Whitney Houston at some points.
Vocal potency aside, the instrumentation of the record is on par with the best. The tight backing band (made from musicians who have played with everyone from Broken Social Scene to Kanye West) offer great beats galore in a way that doesn’t bastardize pop nor indie. “Original Sin” is a thumping radio hit that once again harkens back to the eighties, like Ellie Goulding jammed with Hall & Oates. It’s dance-worthy but not too club-drunk. “Run” is a balanced diet of the southern-weather indie with which Sinclair might be automatically associated and beautiful strings over peppery percussion.
Sun & Mirror really shines, though, when it sparkles and glints like the titular image. “Ghosts You’ve Won” is a powerful indie number with haunting piano and glassy vocals that never lets go, featuring violins as apparitions and Sinclair’s unusual melodies. “Without” is a Studio Ghibli soundtrack that found its way onto a vinyl in Sinclair’s attic and was later dappled with her smooth vocals and a subtle beat. There’s something here for everyone, but don’t be surprised when you end up liking most of the tracks. This is a compelling statement for Sinclair; Sun & Mirror wants to shine and indeed does.