Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Solveig & Stevie - Zombie Lover

Solveig Whittle and Stevie Adamek come together from two different worlds. Adamek has held record contracts and performed with a variety of bands over the years from the See Band, Bighorn, and most notably composed and performed with The Allies, who was one of the first bands to boast a video on the fledging MTV. Since then, Adamek has continued to perform with bands throughout the Seattle area, mentoring, producing, and collaborating with artists across a wide variety of genres.

On the flip side, Whittle began performing in college, taking on covers from the top singer/songwriters of the day like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt. She then took to music as a sideline to her marketing job, performing in multiple bands and even scoring an opportunity to work with Heart guitarist turned solo performer, Roger Fisher. Along the way, she joined up with the Seattle-based pop folk band, Shades of Red, leading to Adamek calling in 2010.

That call led to the two teaming together and the evolution of their debut recording, Zombie Lover. Produced and arranged by Adamek, the seven-track recording a slice of the old and the new, blending a couple of older recordings, such as “Keep Your Eyes on Your Heart” and “Fire,” from the artist’s Allies days, and blending them together with more contemporary fare like the hip-hop mix of “I Just Can’t Breathe.” Undergirding the arrangements are classic 80s elements that support the entire project and lend it a sense of nostalgia.

Those 80s influences are readily apparent from the start as the title track bursts forth with throbbing bass and drum notes, recalling great metal riffs as Solveig’s strong vocals emerge and step to the forefront, sexily slinking through the lyrics with ease. Adamek creates some ample space for Solveig and she takes full advantage of it before seguing into the strangely ambient sound of “Creation.” Another 80s-flavored track backed by filling keyboards and programmed beats that fall on both sides of the equation, both good and bad depending upon who’s listening.

The duo’s cover of The Allies’ “Keep Your Eyes on Your Heart” is a solid success, however, the acoustic intro pressing into the thumping bass notes of the full verse, Solveig’s vocals accented by Adamek’s harmony vocals, providing some needed emotion and texture while some electronic samples, ala Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” lend the track even more gravitas. Yet, the band’s true highlight here comes with the following track, “I Just Can’t Breathe.” Opening with a moody acoustic tone, guest vocalist, UltraLOVE (Michael John Wagner) steps in with a slightly distorted vocal as he channels his version of Eminem while Solveig plays the femme fatale, crooning in and out. The arrangement is beat heavy and filled with crunchy electronic elements that draw you in. It’s easily the highlight of the record.

“Fire,” another Allies cover, finds Solveig and Stevie blending their voices again to solid effect, the harmonies providing a sense of lightness juxtaposed against the darker electric guitar and keyboard fills while “Waiting on the Thunder” falls back into Solveig’s wheelhouse, the R&B influenced jam providing her the acoustic space to let her vocals shine and they do. It’s subdued but beautiful but finds itself marred by a somewhat abrupt fade out at the end, leading into the closing track, “Menta E Rosmarino,” a cover originally performed by Zucchero. It’s a classic 80’s ballad, emotive keyboards building the platform for Solveig to soar but is marred somewhat by elements of flute that take away from the darker tones of the track.

Solveig and Stevie are a tandem that boasts years of experience between them and on Zombie Lover, much of that experience comes to bear. The two sound great together and Adamek’s arrangements are solid although sometimes they fall on the side of being almost too eclectic, leading listeners to question what direction the band is really heading. But while there are a few hiccups along the way, the duo provide enough sound material here to warrant a second listen and to build some anticipation for more.

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