Album Review: Girl Blue’s “Heavy Heart”

TROY – Arielle O’Keefe, who is known by the moniker Girl Blue, released her latest effort, Heavy Heart, on December 15th. On top of the album being chock-full with singer-songwriter panache the likes of Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos – just to name a few – Arielle has successfully and skillfully created an album that furthers not only her own sound but a sound that can surely be enjoyed by many.

“When the Train Arrives,” the album’s first track, features a nice synth in its intro. As the song builds and swells, listeners are soon greeted with the sound of a full band. There’s a nice twist in production as this track changes feel entirely near the end, soon after blending immediately into track two, “Can’t Hide Forever.” A song that contains great pop hooks, it also serves well as a demonstration of Girl Blue’s ability to weave cutting social commentary into her song; the art of an effective folk-singer, to say the least.

Girl Blue’s album, Heavy Heart, cover art.

As I mentioned earlier, whilst listening to the album, I am reminded of Joni Mitchell, and this is especially true in “Same Way,” and “Falling Star,” tracks three and four, respectively. The former tune tackles the intricacies of connecting with someone under specific circumstances, as the narrator questions whether the connection would be the same if she acted or presented a different way, while the latter deftly tackles the enormous societal weight that is put on women, as well as the weight women put on each other.

Not only do I really enjoy the rich, acoustically-based production of this album – often fascinatingly blended with synthesizer effects – but the acerbic, sometimes seemingly out of place one-liners often catch my ears off guard. An example of such a line is in track five, “Heaven,” where Girl Blue sings, “But I’ve got no time/don’t you know who I am?/I’m the queen of my own cell phone.”

There’s a nice change of pace in the album with songs “Just a Dream,” and “Honest,” which are tracks six and eight, respectively. These tunes not only stray away from the acoustic tendencies, but they sound like a completely different genre altogether. With “Just a Dream,” for lack of a better word, there’s a very “trippy” soundscape throughout it, and parts of the instrumentation when paired with the melodies and harmonies even sound like parts of the sounds in the shoegaze genre are being lent in its production. “Honest,” on the other hand, sounds very biting, and its off-beat electric guitar cadence, and timbre reminds me of such artists as Alanis Morissette. The lyrics of the latter song really caught my ear as they deal with dishonesty and the impetus behind being that way. For the narrator, they were dishonest toward themselves in a way that causes self-harm, while the other character in the story was dishonest as a way of boosting social praise and acclaim.

Throughout the album, Girl Blue creates such a rich picture with her lyrics that at times it seems like the proverbial canvas upon which she paints is threatening to become cluttered, yet it never seems to. With the captivating lyrics heard during the record’s duration, along with its inventive production values – listen to “Black Hole,” track seven, and “Heavy Heart,” track ten for prime examples – there’re plenty of interesting moments to spare. Perhaps some of the most vulnerable lyrics are heard on the last two tracks, “Braced For Impact,” and “Little Virgin.”

An endearing love song, “Braced For Impact” takes its listeners on the narrator’s journey of explaining her traumatic responses, and how they came to be learned. Through it all, however, she found a person that takes the edge away; an amazingly touching, and heartfelt sentiment. The last track features just vocals and a piano, in which Girl Blue ends the album on a high note; an album steeped here and there in wistfulness, ends with the extremely poetic line, “And when everything around me kneels and cries/I see the sun come up, and I begin to smile.”

Though it’s impossible to tell for sure where the painfully honest lyrics begin and where the metaphors end, one thing is for certain: Girl Blue deals in the vulnerable topics with such an incredibly deft hand, that it’s quite easy to see how well she’s honed her craft. For any that like to wear their heart on their sleeve, or for those that appreciate a songwriter’s ability to do just that: this is the album for you. Check it out by following the link at the end of the article.


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