“Speak softly but carry a big stick” is what comes to mind while listening to Dinah Thorpe’s latest album, Lullabies and Wake-Up Calls. Alternating between soft, haunting ballads and more up-tempo spoken word sections, Lullabies doesn’t want you to listen so much as it wants you to get lost. Dinah Thorpe’s voice is center stage, but this is truly a showcase of versatile talent. Turning over political tones, recalling stories of getting her daughter ready for school, or being the one who cleans after a party, Lullabies and Wake-Up Calls is a purposefully schizophrenic expose on the human condition. There may be two sides to every coin, but even those sides have their own variations.
Part of what makes Lullabies and Wake-Up Calls so much fun to listen to, for me at least, is the use of sarcasm and humor in her spoken word sections. Used at moments when the songs breakdown and force you to really pay attention. “I’ve got a notebook, and pen, and an apple. Not a Mac, an actual apple. Food, remember those?” She is having fun, and so are we. The quickest comparison, at least vocally would be Natalie Merchant or Feist, and that vocal consistency is felt throughout the album, but what she “lacks” in range, she more than makes up for in concept. Not to sugarcoat things; the same aspect of her music that makes it interesting in some regards also has a tendency to become overbearing, but that is a fine line to dance on if you're actually trying to say something in your music.
Songs that call for dismantling the internet as a means of getting people to reconnect, or re-imagining “Fever” by Peggy Lee, Dinah Thorpe always seems to be in her element. The term “Alternative-Funk” has more weight to it when it’s obvious that she is running the gamut between subtle genre changes, almost effortlessly. This is a testament to her songwriting ability. Even that feels like shortchanging what is actually happening on Lullabies. I can’t stop listening to it, because much like a good genre-mashing movie, I catch something new on every new play through some line, or lyric, or reference, even emotion.
Conceptually, Lullabies and Wake-Up Calls was supposed to be a double album, one section being more slow, and sorrowful, the other more upbeat and energetic. Eventually, the songs either melded together or just went their own way. The album was then condensed into what we get now, and I think we’re all the better for it. Lullabies and Wake-Up Calls may not be for everyone, but for those that find it within their wheelhouse, it’ll be a refreshing listen, something to sit by the window on a rainy day to. Now excuse me, I’m going to listen to it again.
Available April 15th
Worth a listen: Carsick, Can I See What’s In Your Backpack, Brickwall