- Myra Flynn, Never Mind the Mourning
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
On her latest album, Never Mind the Mourning, Myra Flynn teamed up with Grammy-winning producer Jared Lee Gosselin. As he's done with superstars Macy Gray, Corinne Bailey Rae, India.Arie and others, Gosselin helped the Vermont- and Los Angeles-based Flynn ratchet up her soulful pop tendencies.
The singer-songwriter's deep dive into radio readiness obscures the album's dark subject matter — witness track names such as "Mourning Time" and "Hostage," which impart a sense of foreboding. To combat demons relating to the dissolution of an abusive relationship, Flynn disguises hardcore emotional themes with the musical and production equivalents of rainbow sprinkles and cherry syrup. After all, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
More chameleonic than ever, Flynn taps into many flavors: iced-out trap, acoustically driven adult contempo, dancehall reggae, bubblegum pop and, most frequently, neo-soul. She's now at her most accessible: Each of her shades feels fully locked in and uncompromising. And her pipes have never sounded more limber.
"Color Me Love" and "Big Girl Heart" are symbiotic first and second tracks, respectively. The acoustic-guitar-driven opener recalls the artist's yearning, singer-songwriter-y back catalog, while the second, a piano ballad with turbulent beats, adds a bit more oomph. Thematically, the songs tell a two-part story of courage followed by uncertainty.
Springy piano chords and stark percussion open the rollicking "Bye Bye Baby." Multi-tracked background vocals cushion Flynn's sassy dismissal of a malevolent person.
Trap beats, wonky dubstep bass and unearthly shrieks converge on the exceptional "Hostage." Crisscrossing background vocals profusely swarm around Flynn's demoralized hook: "I've been good for you / I've got my hands up / Better hold me hostage / Or don't hold me at all."
"Nobody's Business," a throwback to dancehall reggae's early '00s Top 40 takeover, is so tight and pitch-perfect that you could easily mistake it for a forgotten Sean Paul track from 2003. It even features Rayvon — the same dude who famously sings the hook on Shaggy's monster hit "Angel." But Flynn sings the hook here, and her vocals achieve a lovely shade of glassy detachment heard nowhere else on the album. However, the song feels a bit disconnected from the rest. Perhaps it should've been a stand-alone single.
Other standouts include the horn-laden "Shut Up and Kiss Me"; the sensual, R&B-tinged "Roses"; and the rockin' "Little Murder." It's arguably Flynn's best album and, with its 10 sonically diverse tracks, provides 10 potential avenues for future records, should she decide to explore any of them exclusively.
Never Mind the Mourning is available at CD Baby. Flynn performs several times this week, including Saturday, June 9, at Shelburne Vineyard; Tuesday, June 12, at the University of Vermont's Loving Day event at the Dudley H. Davis Center; and multiple appearances at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Visit myraflynn.com for a full schedule.