Wednesday, March 11, 2009

22 Greatest Albums: Siobhan O'Malley - 'Alibi Bye'

So my sister Siobhan has just released a killer second album. No sophomore slump for her, no sirree! Her first album, 'Permanent Markers' is wonderful in its own right, with a homemade feel and emotional intensity. This album keeps those qualities, yes, but the production and instrumentation are far more intricate.

Siobhan is always quick to list her influences. She is a voracious listener and soaks up all sorts of styles and genres. She's also, in spite of her willingness to write, sing, and record songs, rather shy of the spotlight and kudos. So while I think that her deference to those who influence her writing is classy, I also think it deflects attention from this groundbreaking music.

The range of styles on 'Alibi Bye' is breathtaking. This is not all of the songs on the album, but merely a taste of the whole.

'Give Me The Creeps' is a rollicking rock song with a bite.

'I Might Have To Deal Drugs In Order To Afford To Live In This City' uses a funk r&b guitar lick and a tempo change to underscore its bleak picture of the economic reality of the life of an artist in New York City.

'It's Not Yesterday' is an heart breaker which has my favorite line on the album...'There's nothing like denial to blur your periphery'. It also is one of those songs that instantly gets into your consciousness and you find yourself singing the chorus while brushing your teeth.

'A Future Me' is that rare bird, a song without a trace of rancor. It details the pure love of a girl for her older sister. Granted, I'm part of this family so it hits me very square in the gut but I defy anyone with any sense of familial tenderness to hear this song without breaking into tears of joy.

'Squinting Optometrist' is...I mean, just look at the title. Do I even need to say anything else?

'The Fundy Bay Forecast' is an epic. Modern love leaves most of us at one point in a state of bleakness so total that we are unable to move, breathe, eat, sleep, or most important, consider loving again. This song is like a dark psalm attempting an exorcism the singer doesn't believe will work.

'Avenue C'd' ends the album and takes all the emotion of the previous songs and funnels it into a pinpoint of helpless rage and despair. I can barely listen to this song without having to check into a spa.

Now, the subject matter is often difficult, the emotion is deep and disturbing, but with the sound of this album, Siobhan gives the listener a lifeline, and by doing so she positions herself as a kind of humorous shaman, guiding us through our own treacherous terrain.

So, yes. Siobhan is influenced by Sheryl Crow. She loves Elvis Costello. She digs Mariah, Beyonce, Britney, etc. She invokes Cat Power somehow. But with this album she has declared that these people are peers, not idols.

Somewhere, sometime, a young girl with a guitar will listen to this album. And then she'll think, "I wish I could write like Siobhan O'Malley."


Steve said...

Amen, brother...!

Sheila O'Malley said...


True, every word.