Release Date: May 22, 2012
Record label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Shannon Stephens' third studio outing, the heartfelt, ragged, and stoic Pull It Together, is a far more ambitious affair than 2009's austere Breadwinner. Opening with the dusty and dreamy "Wax and Feathers," a bruised yet defiant distillation of faith and verisimilitude, Stephens establishes a narrator with a big heart and a steely gaze. She's got attitude to spare, but it's not misplaced.
Shannon StephensPull It Together[Asthmatic Kitty; 2012]By Ray Finlayson; May 21, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhile strong independent female figures are fairly common in the indie-music world (PJ Harvey, Laura Marling), it’s not very often you come across a matriarchal figure. And really that’s not too surprising as you rarely associate mothers with “cool” music you would listen to, but instead (if anything) with introspective and thoughtful offerings. And equally unsurprising is that these tend to come from veterans in the music world, as world weary mothers tend to be a bit on in their years (Kate Bush, Sinead O’Connor).
Pull It Together is, at first listen, a refreshingly clear-eyed record from Shannon Stephens. It shrugs off layers of orchestration from past records, and instead Stephens assembles a crack band behind to create dusty, lean, and often blues-inspired foundations over which she lays her sweet vocals. And those vocals are at their absolute strongest here.
Coming three years after Stephens' previous full-length album, The Breadwinner, Pull It Together finds the Seattle songstress taking a more rough-hewn approach, with a distinctly bluesy edge. That's helped greatly by the solid band she's assembled, whose individual resumes include contributions to albums by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, Sufjan Stevens and Laura Viers. Stephens fronts the group with aplomb, with her Joni Mitchell-esque vocals floating through the album's 11 tracks like smoke from a campfire.