Red Sun

Helen America

Independent release, 2019

http://helenamerica.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/14/2020

A youngster from Seattle who plays protest music like an old soul, Helen America is also well versed in the printed arts. She even adds an illustrated lyric book the size of a record jacket here on Red Sun.

“Thelxiepela” starts the listen with a haunting folk quality as pretty vocals enter the mysterious equation, where a cello and jaw harp are in attendance. “Dynamite” continues the graceful delivery with a quirky upbeat tune that almost comes off as children's music as America get charming with a banjo ukulele while Scott Adams holds down accordion. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This is an album with a healthy amount of textures. Songs like “Dissect” are equal parts ominous and thick as well as orchestral at their core, and “There Is No Love” moves with sleek pulse that you could dance to while occasionally getting forceful enough to sit on the cusp of alt-rock. Although there isn't an inferior track to be found, “The Bright Room” is especially radiant, with its warm acoustic strumming and violin amid the raw folk where bagpipes help complement the mood.

The album finishes strong, as the avant-garde ideas and cinematic quality of “We Are All Mice,” which addresses climate change with much depth, and the dreamy, soaring beauty of the final track, “Red Sun.” Complete with backing vocals from Rebecca Wenstrom and Nina Budabin McQuown, this track helps the record exit as compelling as it started.

(Note: The packaging here is just as unique as the music; although you'll probably shelve this with an LP due to its 11x11” size, it's actually a CD and download code housed in the 24-page glossy book.)

An extremely eloquent, expressive, and thoughtful record, America offers vivid imagery in her wordplay, and the booklet helps capture those images with her creative and eye-catching artwork. Musically, Red Sun is all over the place, where chamber and classical ideas are present alongside her timeless poetic and insightful approach that warrants comparisons to legends like Joan Baez, Joanna Newsom, and Patti Smith.

Rating: A-

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