Amanda Dreher / Today Comes With Its Own Set Of Problems
January 8, 2009
It's readily apparent that Amanda Dreher has the kind of voice - mellow, smooth, a touch of Nico here, a bit of Beth Orton there - that would make coffeehouse patrons stay for that fourth or fifth Chai Latte. She has the acoustic guitar chops to match. So what happens when she decides to put her skills to work in the studio? You might expect a coffeehouse-friendly batch of songs on her debut, Today Comes With Its Own Set of Problems, but only a handful ("Grafts Don't Take," "Scraped Knees") fall solidly into that category. Instead, she and her fairly minimalist combo (mostly laid-back bass and drums) deliver a fairly varied set of tunes that are never anything short of tasteful, intelligent and measured. That said, I'm enjoying my homemade cup of joe even more as I write this. Delicate but certainly not brittle, "Morning" hovers among the clouds while a cyclical chord progression provides a perfect compliment to Dreher's subdued vocals. "Open the curtains / Let the truth in," she sings, both dreading the day and hanging onto hope. It's a nuanced performance and an understated album highlight. "Anything and Nothing at All" is downright bouncy - in the context of this disc, anyway. Though there are at least a few clouds floating through the song, Dreher's waiting for her patience to pay off: "Soon the sun will be high in the blue sky / and you'll be approaching on the interstate." You almost expect a pastoral, chimey Johnny Marr solo to materialize midway through this number.
The finger-picked finale, "When It Storms," is a gentle, bittersweet meditation with just enough unconventional chording to keep the arrangement vibrant. Dreher's mellow vocal approach and unsentimental approach make lines like "I think of you more than I should / and I don't intend to change" carry a latched-closed emotional weight that is only as heavy as the listener makes it. That kind of restraint makes Today Comes With Its Own Set of Problems an easy album to become attached to.