Rebekah Higgs: Odd Fellowship
Everything you need to know about Rebekah Higgs’ second album Odd Fellowship, can be summed up in the following sentence: pretty privileged girl successfully avoids day job through music. That being said, the easy thing to do next would be to follow-up with a harshly critical tour-de-force detailing every fault on the album with cunningly organized comedic suggestions. But, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll let you decide for yourself and try to remain as neutral as possible in keeping with the finer sentiments of journalistic integrity.
One look at the cover of Odd Fellowship does an excellent job at foreshadowing the trip the audience is about to embark on. It is, surprisingly, three pictures of Rebekah Higgs. What an odd fellowship indeed. Her hair is the perfect illustration of a storm at sea veiling her moody, distant expression. It’s almost a warning, as if she’s saying the emotional weight of this album is going to batter you the same way it has her.
Upon mustering your courage, slip the CD into your stereo and press play. You’ll be immediately assaulted by track one, “Little Voice.” It is without doubt the best and strongest offering of the album. Yes, it’s a love song sung to an unidentified suitor over a simple piano rhythm with a chorus line of, “bum ba bum’s.” And yes, her voice is attractive in a coy way that suits the accompanying bells nicely. Surely, these things have never been attempted before. And if that isn’t enough for you, tessellating behind the second verse is a little sonic collage to add depth to the otherwise dull format. The track is intended to pull at the universally understood mystery that is love. And it doesn’t work.
Continuing on we come to “Gosh, Darn, Damn.” My feelings exactly. Rebekah Higgs is clever, and she wants you to know it–so in addition to her trademark ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ (and to avoid confusion I’m not mentioning here her painstakingly composed but otherwise nonsensical lyrics) she kicks the tempo up a handful of BPM’s, adding a bit of distortion to show an edge. For some reason, probably to carry the sparse musical arrangements, there’s an orchestral string inclusion sustaining over the chorus.
Next we come to a topic I’m sure Rebekah knows all about, it’s called “Youth and Beauty.” For the third track, if you haven’t yet lost your patience for this young woman I commend you. It’s only going to get worse because this is where the filler begins, and it doesn’t stop until you break your stereo or else the album ends.
The problem with Miss Higgs is that she doesn’t know what she’s doing anywhere on this collection. Take for instance the lack of complex musical progression. Fine, that would imply she’s attempting a folk style format to allow her lyrics to shine through. Unfortunately, the lyrics read like something out of a diary, and not the cool 17th century exploration into the unknown type diary either.
Another issue is her choice of topic. Much like the Jesus quota with Christian artists, Rebekah Higgs cannot write a song that isn’t about love. And that’s fine, everybody sings about love and relationships, it’s a staple, but for the concept to work, the universal must be made personal, or else an identifiable spin, an alteration to the subject must take place to keep it from becoming the same stale song we’ve all heard to death. Nowhere does Rebekah attempt this, instead from the first to the last we have the seemingly endless repetition of the same song with different musical accompaniment.
Furthermore, the only risk Miss Higgs even nods towards is the sonic collage as mentioned above. Good for her, it’s an ambitious attempt. If you don’t readily understand the idea, think of the orchestral crescendo in Sergeant Pepper’s, or else Dave Grohl’s spoken word message during the buildup in “Everlong”, or just about every single track Ugly Casanova ever did. It is in effect, a way of putting a song within a song, and when done well the layers and dimensions can create an almost compulsive instinct to figure out what’s happening below the surface of the track.
Unfortunately, Rebekah Higgs realizes abstract applications in music without being able to even passably present any. Case in point: “Stick and Poke,” the worst effort at a round I’ve ever heard. Think of “Gigantic,” from Surfer Rosa, keep the alluring feminine voice but take away the light to dark transition and the wave of sound dynamics, now add Ms. Higgs’ forgettable lyrics atop a building, frenzied endlessly repetitive electronic drum track. I found myself yelling “SHUTUP, SHUTUP, SHUTUP!” at the stereo, and refused to even re-listen to the track to write this paragraph about it. It’s that bad.
Over-all, Odd Fellowship is fodder for young men who fell in love with Rebekah Higgs over open mic nights and aging hipsters clinging to any sense of credibility they never actually had. I can easily foresee some of the tracks being included as background noise for intense gazing by two lovelorn characters in a poorly reviewed Hollywood romance.
Fifty years ago people made music because they actually liked music. They knew that by devoting their lives to the discipline, the ambition of a career in the most powerful of all arts meant effectively relegating themselves to an existence of crushing poverty and castigation from general society. But they were prepared to forego the creature comforts of a nine to five life because of their passion. And I do not mince words here. Today, after listening to Odd Fellowship, I have begun to realize that some people don’t make music because they are devoted to it, rather because the lifestyle is attractive and the possibilities lucrative. Rebekah Higgs is this type of musician.
MP3: Rebekah Higgs “Stick & Poke”
Rebekah Higgs: Odd Fellowship