Smile Politely

Album Review: Lynn O’Brien’s Yes!

I admit that I didn’t expect to enjoy Cover ArtLynn O’Brien‘s latest album Yes! I’m not a fan of the particular genre of music that she performs (on her myspace page, she classifies herself as Folk/Jazz/Acoustic). My tastes lean more toward alternative/post/goth rock fusion. Don’t get me wrong; I have some freaking integrity. I planned to treat Yes! fairly; I just didn’t expect to be entertained while doing it.

So, considering my low expectations going in, I am surprised at how much I did enjoy about O’Brien’s music.

O’Brien is only 23 years old, and has already recorded two albums. Her catalog of local performances — both here and in Bloomington — is extensive. She’s a true working musician, and the “gigs” section of her site unpretentiously lists her performances at weddings and parties alongside those at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. She’s educated, accomplished, and well-traveled. And her education, experiences, and unpretentiousness are all reflected in her music.

O’Brien has a rich, textured contralto, and her timing is impeccable. Her talent on the ukulele and piano is without question. She’s charming; she’s witty; and her infectious personality is all over her songs. I admit, for the most part, they aren’t songs that I enjoy, but that’s not O’Brien’s fault. It’s not my fault either; it’s all simply subjective preference.

Yes! is a mixture of torch songs and whimsical, lighthearted compositions — mostly about relationships. The CD begins and ends with kicky, playful, cheery tunes. All things that I admit to loathing in music. And I’m sorry to say that I didn’t find much in the lyrics that moved me:

Don’t be sad little dandelion
I’m so glad you’re mine
And don’t be scared little dandelion
Everything will be alright

Nope. That just doesn’t move my cold, black heart. To be fair, not every song — or even most of the songs — are simple ditties like this, but I didn’t find the lyrics in any of them to be compelling enough to remember.

Lyrics aside, “Mouths are Moving” and “Brown-Eyed Binoculars” exhibit clear talent and craftsmanship. O’Brien’s vocals display impressive control, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s Broadway influenced.

Yes! also contains some real melodic beauty, especially when Erin Vurovich’s gorgeous, stirring cello joins in. “Red and Blue,” “Not Aiming for Land,” and “It Is Enough” (embedded below, and containing the prettiest lyrics of the album) all highlight O’Brien’s poignant voice and lovely singer/songwriter sound.

So, while I may not enjoy her genre, I know talent when I hear it. And Lynn O’Brien has it. Her vocals, style, craftsmanship, and creativity remind me of two other female singers: Nellie McKay and Brandi Carlile. If you’re a fan of them, chances are you’ll enjoy O’Brien’s Yes!

Lynn O’Brien, “It Is Enough”


Feature photo by Karen Bridges photography

Album cover art by Sindha Agha, with design by Matt Barnes

Related Articles