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At Sea

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Album Review

If Emily Grogan's third album had been released a decade or so earlier than 2007, she might have joined Meredith Brooks, Paula Cole, and the other second-tier singer/songwriters of the Lilith Fair generation as an adult album alternative radio mainstay. While perhaps not a conscious throwback to the post-Alanis Morissette era, the Boston singer/songwriter nonetheless bears many of the hallmarks of that musical time and place. Uptempo songs like "Lost at Sea" and "New Day" are immediate, catchy pop/rockers, glossily produced but with just enough grit in the guitars to keep from sounding too polite, and giving Grogan's powerful voice room to open up without sounding strident or bellowing. The gentler songs, like the dramatic "Restless Souls" and the tender ballad "Far Apart," have more textured arrangements, with piano, horns, and strings underpinning the vocals and guitars. (The centerpiece song, the descriptively titled "Psychedelia in A," goes a bit too far in that direction, creating a richly detailed and indeed psychedelic arrangement around probably the weakest melody on the album.) In both styles, the songs are consistently good to great, with instantly memorable tunes and lyrics that shy away from diary-entry mawkishness in favor of wry one-liners and clear-eyed thoughts on love and loss. Yet it's difficult to get away from the sense that changing musical fashions have passed Emily Grogan by, which seems unfair: At Sea is a smart, tuneful pop/rock album that deserves a wider audience than it seems likely to get.

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At Sea, Emily Grogan
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