Album Review: Angelina Valente soars on ‘Sing’
When it comes to music, I’m a creature of seasonal habits. Once the weather starts cooling down and the days start getting shorter to make room for the impending gloom of winter, the same records re-emerge on my play queues: John Mayer’s Continuum. Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Et cetera, et cetera. After all these years, Angelina Valente may have just increased my hoodie-weather listening collection by one.
Sing is the debut full-length that Angelina drops today, aptly just ahead of Daylight Savings’ cruel demise. (Sure, we “gain” an hour of sleep, but who wants to leave their 9-to-5 shrouded in darkness?) It’s a record crafted with such care and gentleness, it might as well be made of porcelain. It’s warm and familiar, like wrapping yourself in a handmade quilt. Or, put another way, it’s Angelina’s Come Away With Me moment, if I may shamelessly reference yet another seasonal selection in my autumn-turns-to-winter library.
A perhaps less obvious comparison, but one that came to mind rather quickly, is that Angelina is the Capital Region’s Ingrid Michaelson. The ukelele-led “Rental Space”, one of the album’s many highlights, is the clearest example of this. The stripped down arrangement utilized for this pop-oriented song demonstrates her knack for both storytelling and melody. Not to mention, the way her voice occasionally goes from buttery smooth to almost speaking – quite wryly, I might add – is a quality not many can pull off authentically. It’s something Ingrid is great at. Angelina might be even better.
Before this, “Caught Up in the Rain” kicks the record off, setting the pace perfectly with subtle instrumental flourishes just intricate enough to poke out from behind the curtain that is Angelina’s alluring voice. The lightly brushed drums and arpeggiated guitar lay the groundwork for an impeccable introduction about finding comfort in life’s little storms. ‘The tiniest ripples make the greatest waves…,’ she declares in one of the record’s most memorable choruses.
Later, there’s the absolutely stunning, nostalgia-fueled “Maybe It’s the Way”. With its Americana-tinged vocal harmonies and tasteful guitar solo, the song is a 10/10 perfect moment in a consistently strong track listing. It’s the kind of song that will stop you dead in your tracks, which could have dangerous consequences if you’re driving while listening like I was the first time. (Don’t worry – no writers or pedestrians were harmed during the reviewing of this record…)
“Over the Rainbow” – no, not a cover – is another particularly glorious moment, thanks in part to a well-placed key change about two-thirds of the way through. “The Woodpecker” arguably holds Angelina’s finest vocal performance, atop a gorgeous piano part that, if there’s any justice in this cruel world, will someday find its way into an Oscar-nominated drama. And “No More Doors” features lyrics like, ‘I feel like I’ve spent a million lifetimes with you / Trying to build tiny door frames just to / Hide all the little pieces from view…’ that paint a lovely picture of a relationship one desires to keep private for safekeeping. It’s as if Angelina has covered not just the relationship she’s referencing, but the entire record, in a thin layer of glass, practically begging anyone listening to do so with care so as not to crack the surface. Thankfully for those of us on the outside of the glass, it is crystal clear – whoever cleaned it left us a pristine view into Angelina’s soul even as we’re kept at arm’s length.
For many songwriters, the simple act of releasing a debut record under their own name is something to be proud of. Having it be this good, is a whole other feat to behold. First albums are direct introductions to an artist. They’re about finding one’s footing and one’s voice simultaneously, and for better or worse, they typically end up steering a career. Already, Angelina has quickly begun making a name for herself across the Capital Region. With Sing, I have a feeling word is going to begin spreading far wider.
Don’t miss checking out Angelina’s debut record today on all major streaming platforms. And as always, one of the best ways to support your favorite local artists is to purchase their music on Bandcamp (and it just so happens to be Bandcamp Friday!).