- Andriana Chobot, Return to Sincere
(Self-released, CD, digital)
From the start of her sophomore album, Return to Sincere, Andriana Chobot makes her intended tone clear. The intro track features the echo of approaching footsteps, rhythmic as a drumbeat. Over the buzz of a fluorescent light, a female voice gently sings a few unintelligible notes, like a distant siren's warning song.
These sounds cut abruptly to an album that's dramatic, a little dark and, at times, very literal. If the music video for the song "Like It's the Last Time," featuring the artist grinning wildly while riding a carousel and dancing at the gates of a cemetery, is any indication, Chobot has landed on a musical identity and is ready to take it for a joyride.
The album is anchored in Chobot's piano playing and emotive voice. After the intro, the next track is "Neon," a song in which the thoughtful, ambient guitar playing of Burlington's Tom Pearo collides with intensifying percussion to intriguing, disquieting effect. Chobot, meanwhile, opens the song with ominous, breathy vocals but quickly employs her full-throated alto to command the soundscape.
Her natural volume and emphatic delivery suggest that Chobot belongs on a theater stage. "Galaxy Eyes" sounds like an Act 2 ballad in a musical about astronauts falling in love — to which I would absolutely buy tickets. Singing with Joshua Glass, another Burlington singer-songwriter, Chobot captures the heady, emotionally wrought early stages of falling in love; their voices climb over the word "ultraviolet" like the first rays of the rising sun.
Chobot also makes room for creative instrumentation, such as on the previously mentioned "Like It's the Last Time." Here, her chanting chorus becomes a backdrop for a saxophone solo by Dan Rome, also of Burlington.
Chobot isn't the first songstress with a theatrical flair, and I imagine she's influenced by the likes of Regina Spektor and Amanda Palmer. Sometimes, however, Chobot's dramatic touches veer toward shtick.
"Merry-Go-Round" evokes a carnival ride gone wrong. The distinctly circus-like tune creeps through different cadences, topped with distorted vocal improvisations and an overlaid evil-clown laugh. Listening to the song is fun the way that getting lost in a house of mirrors is fun: Neither is anything I'm eager to do every day.
Then again, in times like these, who could blame Chobot for a little musical escapism? The chorus of the title track is a call to action issued to a chaotic world, complete with clever wordplay: "I'll come back when there's return to sincere," Chobot sings, "Return to some sense here."
Chobot's intensity and enthusiasm for her music seem sincere and make me think that, in a live setting, the moments that are a bit much on this album might, in fact, be just right.
Find Return to Sincere on all major streaming platforms. Chobot plays on Saturday, July 16, at Foam Brewers in Burlington and Wednesday, July 20, at the Double E Performance Center in Essex Junction.