Album Review: Sarah Jacob, Damask

damask.jpg
Sarah Jacob
Damask
(Reppertoire)


According to the Merriam-Webster, Damask is a firm lustrous fabric make with flat patterns in a satin weave on a plain-woven ground on jacquard looms. After listening through Miami's own Sarah Jacob's Damask, I can say the title is fitting. It's filled with flat patterns, plain-woven lyrics, and a puzzling propensity to crowbar those lyrics into schizophrenic musical arrangements.

Damask's opening line on "Deprivation" perfectly describes my time with the album. "You came on ever so quickly. You filled me with expectations, but only briefly." The opening track "Prelude" is a sparse and beautiful piano and violin arrangement that lasts 31 seconds. "Dare I," substitutes keyboards for pianos and begins to fall apart a few moments later. Jacob's singing is beautiful at times, especially when she goes from a raspy whisper to a full on belting out of her lyrics. But she gets a sort of beat poet vibe and stops singing mid line to speak certain words before suddenly breaking back into singing. It makes for an uneven experience.

Lyrically, Damask is not strong. Although the lyrics are no doubt heartfelt and written by Jacob's, they're pedestrian at best. For instance, a minute and a half into "Tapestry," Sarah actually sings the following lines: "Let's build a house in France. We'll learn the language of romance. If we give it half a chance we might learn to dance. Yeah." The rest of the album is filled with lines you've heard a thousand times before or seen scribbled in the margins of your high school yearbooks.

Musically, the album is a mixed bag. At points, the orchestral arrangements, drums, and piano blend together to form a warm, lush sound scape. Other times, the music sounds like something that would be played during a wedding ceremony, funeral procession, or graduation. It's familiar and uninspired.

Sarah Jacob has the talent to be one hell of a musician. The problems with Damask are the sometimes laughable lyrics and music that becomes distracting when it tries to get an "epic" feel. Pare it down to a piano, maybe some drums, and spend more time on lyrics (or be like everyone on the radio and have someone else write your songs) and you could have something. The album just has too many things going against it to recommend.
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