LOST AT SEA

Rebecca Schiffman's debut had two biases working in full force before I even spun the CD. One, that I am unfairly biased against singer-songwriters, because most of the solo albums from people I don't recognize warrant a lot of criticism (and it seems like any person with a guitar and two cents worth of recording time can and will make an album). The other is that after reading her biography, I developed a sugary and blushing girl-crush on Ms. Schiffman. It's not like me to admit that readily, but after hearing her stance on music and her own undying creativity, I caved in. The Upside Down part of her chosen title refers to the fact that she often turns established sheet music on its head to hear how it would sound. Already, she strikes me as a person who sees with different eyes than most, and loves to relish in the creative. In full, she says that since "Lachrymose" means sad, then Upside Down Lacrimosa might just mean happy. It is in the spirit of playing with one's own words, intentions, and emotions that my little crush was furthered along. Luckily for me, her music justifies my good feelings toward her. The album is resplendent and charming. Her influences are beautiful, from Classical music to The Softies, Shannon Wright, Bebel Gilberto and Lois, and bring forth a heartily-steeped, harmonious sound. She is, undoubtedly, a serious musician– and yet she maintains the sweet quality best characterized by her lilting voice, and shows a softened heart. Keyboards, drums, and luscious strings swirl ambitiously, even when aptly pinned to Mozart's "Lacrimosa", which she recreates at the album's center. For some, this attempt may result in the pretentious, but Ms. Schiffman manages to emote a labor of love. Tracks like "Long Ride Home" dote on her crystalline, twee side, relaxing amid buoyant harmonies; others such as "Pigeons and Igloos" focus on her form carefree faux-Brazilian jazz, meshing competence with touch-toed exuberance. Her proficiency as an instrumentalist is versed but never intimidating, and though her graceful voice is treasure enough, her ability to support it with technical expertise and tremendous creativity makes this album a true gift. As I have the ability to carry this portable memento along as I stride around the lake or enjoy the comfort of my patio, I can happily court Rebecca Schiffman. While this is unbeknownst to the artist, I'll more than willingly adopt her as secret muse and companion. The world just looks a little prettier with her around. - Sarah Iddings


 
VENUS ZINE

Upside Down Lacrimosa resulted when Rebecca Schiffman took the movement "Lacrimosa" from Mozart's Requiem, read it backward, and recorded it on her Casio. The finished product then became the title track of her debut release. Since lacrimosa means sadness, Schiffman reckoned that upside down it could only mean happiness. Choosing happiness as the theme of this debut release does seem like an odd choice. All the same, for those who find bliss in a merciless analysis of modern life, it should all make sense. The music is extremely lo-tech in nature and based upon demos Schiffman had initially done at home. The subtle nuances, such as the quiet organ and subtle chord changes on the opening track, "Total Recall," to the forlorn banjo on "Fireflies," are well thought out and carefully adorn the initial sparse framework of the songs. Schiffman's expressionless vocals, which owe a great debt to both Nico and Liz Phair, do grate after a while but serve well as a clever commentary. Schiffman's biting observations reveal a maturity and world-weariness that belie her young age; perhaps that is the native New Yorker in her. (This could also explain why she believes "Sometimes Mother Nature is trying to kill you.") She is right on well-deserving target a great deal of the time, as when she deadpans, "How difficult to maintain your space / When a rent-a-fridge company knows where you live." Rebecca Schiffman keenly mocks, yet indulges, the paranoia and the absurdity that accompany the modern urban experience. - Anne Johnson


 
SPONIC ZINE

When Rebecca Schiffman sings, she sounds like she's half-asleep. But that's not a bad thing; the folk-pop songs that fill her debut album Upside Down Lacrimosa have the atmosphere or whatnot that makes you feel transported to some unreal place, like that line between being asleep and awake. That feeling is conjured up through her somnambulistic singing voice, sure, but also via dreamy keyboards and other sonic touches. Her lyrics also often dive into that feeling that everything isn't what it seems, often in poetic ways (concise poetry that carefully evokes without getting wrapped up in itself, always the best kind). The opening song, "Total Recall" is a gorgeous expression of the way you can get real life and images confused ("real emotions remind me of the movies"), while a song titled "The Weight of Your Sleep" makes that 'waking life' theme literal. There's also the simply titled "Lullaby," which gives the album a perfect last line: "Coral and seaflowers, sand dollar stars, laid out in your memory." She's singing about a grave, but that last phrase resonates in other ways as well...as a final thought on the way minds can create their own universes, and as one last echo of the way her songs have the power to really take you places. - Dave Heaton