Becca Stevens - "Perfect Animal" - Drivin' and Listenin'

I'm late to the party on this artist.  I'm not going to claim to be a maven or an early adopter, though I heard her with my pal Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra​.  Becca Stevens.  I loved the last record with "Weightless" on it, and the great covers of Joni and Seal and Morrissey.  She plays the crap out of whatever stringed instrument she is holding, sings perfectly in tune and emotively and rhythmically precisely while doing it.  Her band is remarkable; the accordion and cajon are nice consistent touches that define the band's sound.  I am a little biased because Jordan Perlson​ is the drummer and he is one of my favorites to play with and he admits to knowing me and playing on my projects (rather than the typical cat I hire who says "I went to Boston for a weekend and it was hazy but apparently I recorded with Mark Shilansky on about 3 different records he was producing in a variety of idioms and he wouldn't stop with the Simpsons quotes").  Anyway, in another recent late-night drive, we heard Becca Stevens new "Perfect Animal", and it is, for me, the Album of the Year.  It is breathtaking.  The lyrics are heavy, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking.  There is always an inventive melody.  With the originals as well as the covers (there are a few here, notably one by Steve Winwood and one by Frank Ocean which you've probably heard and one I won't spoil by telling you the artist but he is such an unlikely choice and Becca and the band make this tune about a million times better than the original, and you laugh at first, "wow, why did she choose this tune" but then they actually play it straight instead of for laughs and it is sweet and sexy), the arrangements are CONSTANTLY changing to serve the text and to keep the listener (and I'm sure the band) engaged.  So much detail.   I was a little concerned when I first heard it because it "sounds a lot more produced" than Weightless, meaning the sounds are processed and the drums are bigger, but it actually makes the music even more effective, to have some "extreme" sounds from time to time.  It was hard to listen to this record while driving because I kept speeding and my heart was racing because with some of these tunes you have NO IDEA what is coming next, arrangement-wise… will it be acapella?  13/8?  will the groove change?  The vocal harmonies are super tight and quirky at the same time.  All the vocal timbres are a little different but the blend is so unique and personal.  Becca Stevens deserves to BLOW UP, do you hear me?  It is accessible music with incredible conviction.  It makes me want to write music and arrange it because she seems to make every tune EXACTLY the way she wants it.  There are things that remind one of string bands like the Punch Brothers but also Bjork or the Story or Bill Frisell or the Police or Yes, but it is not derivative or appropriative in the slightest.   Becca's voice is subtle and sweet but she can belt when necessary and her time-feel is impeccable… she can float or groove at will...  I hope she becomes super huge because imagine if this music began to influence other artists, new and established!   So, do check this out, and the last couple records as well (I need to do a thorough listening to her first record… maybe my next long drive).

Leave a comment