Album Review: Cassandra Kubinski’s “The Saratoga Sessions EP”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – With her latest release, The Saratoga Sessions, pianist and singer-songwriter Cassandra Kubinski showcases deeper facets of her craft. Combining elements of pop, funk, dance, and piano ballads, the artist displays a wide range of creativity. Featuring four compact tunes, this new EP is an effective jumping-off point for new fans and a nice addition to the artist’s repertoire for those who are already familiar.
Opening the EP with an ever-so-loose piano and vocal introduction in “The Sound,” it’s not long before hard-hitting bass and drums enter. At that point, the groove is immediately established, and the song is heavily propelled forward. Having the feeling of the tune change from the back of the beat to a very forward-leaning sensation is a great arrangement choice. Having the lyrics accompany the arrangement—the bass falls out when Kubinski sings “bass drops” – is also a nice touch. There’s a short return to simplicity during the bridge before a climactic conclusion occurs, furthering the development of the tune. This is quite a strong exposition to the album.
Beginning with just vocals, bass, and kick drum, the effect on the voice really stands out on “Fierce,” track two. Opening to more instrumentation – hi-hats, guitar, clavinets, clapping, and more—the push and pull of the arrangement is noted and appreciated. This song is very steeped in disco and funk genres and stands out from other tracks in Kubinski’s catalog.
Featuring a plaintive piano and vocal intro in “Hindsight is 20/20,” track three, the tune soon breaks way to full-band instrumentation. The various synth stabs are simple but help to accent the overall feel of the track. A pop song through and through, the repetitive lyrics make the tune get stuck in the listener’s ears fairly quickly.
For the closing track, “The Phoenix,” there are some pretty well-crafted, evocative lyrics that are accompanied by a gospel-flavored chord progression. I’m really a fan of borrowed dominant chords, and this song is chock-full of that, as well as nice major-minor chord couplings. Gliding effortlessly into the bridge, Kubinski showcases her range during the ending chorus, singing the melody an entire octave higher. The contemplative ballad is the perfect way to end this short collection of tunes.
Building upon her growing catalog of pop tunes, Kubinski puts forth a short but sweet record with The Saratoga Sessions. Although some of the tunes may seem slightly predictable in some areas, it’s the nature of the songs that help drive them into people’s heads rather quickly. Any sense of this formulaic fashion is softened by the amazing production that occurs from start to finish; the instrumentation is executed amazingly well. For those that want to feel the beat and hone in on some lyrics – “The Phoenix,” especially – this is the record for them. You can listen to it for yourself on any of the major streaming platforms.