May 16--Courtney Yasmineh is a Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter whose music recalls a period in the mid-late 1990s when artists like Liz Phair, Tracy Bonham and Veruca Salt were big names. Like them, Yasmineh has directness and attitude, but with an ear toward catchy hooks and radio-ready arrangements.
"Wake Me Up When It's Over" kicks things off with "Ballad to My Other Self," a decidedly non-balladish track that features a fat, buzzing guitar coupled with Yasmineh's quiet, breathy, Kim Deal-like vocal. "I wanna break loose from this life, and all the pain that comes with it," she sings, as her band starts building momentum. The tune ends quickly at two minutes, but that's not a bad thing, necessarily.
The title track finds Yasmineh continuing the lost-love thread from the first song. "Living on my own / thought it would kill me / need a body in the bed," she sings. "But I've never known such freedom / turns out I didn't miss him / turns out I like being on my own." The lyrics here are a bit too on-the-nose, but when she describes a one-night-stand as being not "my type in broad daylight," it's a little shot of humor that is welcome.
"Only One" starts off with a new-wave guitar riff, and the singsongy vocal approach Yasmineh takes on the track is just the right one. A song like this is where she shines -- focusing on the melody and the rhythm of the vocal rather than the words generally is when Yasmineh fares best. Her band, which sometimes can sound a bit generic, fares well on this track, too, deploying subtle guitar effects to add to the off-kilter feel of the song.
"I don't know if your life is passing before your eyes like it's passing before mine," Yasmineh sings on "Scrutiny," which is a nice opening line, but it's shoehorned a bit into the music. This is a slight issue with the album, overall -- sometimes it seems like the singer has trouble fitting her lyrics to the music and making them sing right. It's not blatantly problematic, but at times, it's definitely noticeable.
Yasmineh also often relies on self-help cliches and portraits of herself or another person as someone who is rising above mistreatment by another -- this is an area that unfortunately keeps her stylistically too close to a Meredith Brooks or an Alanis Morrisette, which is not where anybody should desire to end up. Nothing wrong with having an ax to grind, or in wanting to use your music as a platform to air grievances, but after a series of songs in the same vein it gets repetitive.
"Apparition" finds Yasmineh promising to haunt an ex-lover in death, and the music bed is suitably dark. It's a high point of the collection, even if it features the lyric "The dark night returns," which makes the song sound like it's about Batman. "Treacherous skies" and "winds" and "omens" dot the lyrics, and, while the picture is unclear, it's a better lyrical vein for Yasmineh to mine than the repeated, overt references to good love gone bad.
Overall, the album is recorded and played impeccably, maybe too much. A sloppier "Exile in Guyville" approach might suit Yasmineh better in the future, as would a lyrical approach that is less focused on your bog-standard boy-girl stuff, or at least less directly so.
There's not much here that's challenging or particularly gritty, though it seems like that's the way Yasmineh wants to go. But if you're looking for songs to scribble mustaches over photos of ex-boyfriends to, this is your disc.
"Only One" --
Tony Bennett reviews music for the News Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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