Monday, November 7, 2011

Review of Melody Hill, by Jessica Bell

As I mentioned last week, I got Jessica Bell’s album, Melody Hill; On the Other side. I was excited about this project long before I heard the album. Part of my interest was because Jessica is such a delightful & supportive Blogger (find her at The Alliterative Allomorph), but I was especially intrigued that she released an album as a soundtrack to her book. As I said last week: How cool is that!?

One of my pet-peeves is when I ask someone about a band, and they say “They’re good.” Well, The Beatles are good, and Rage Against The Machine are good, so you really haven’t told me anything. I really enjoyed Melody Hill, and I will try to give a more detailed review than “it’s really good.”

Having said that, it’s a really good album, but I am having one problem with this. I enjoy this type of acoustic-based singer/songwriter music with female vocals, but it’s been years since I’ve listened to it, so please forgive me if my comparisons are somewhat dated.

This music could easily be played in the same concert with Jewel or Alanis Morisette (being a little more rock-based than the former). I should think that either would be pleased to open for Jessica Bell. It also reminds me a little of Sinead O’Conner’s first album, The Lion and The Cobra, if anyone remembers that. I believe that I’m also hearing a hint of Portishead in there. Her voice alternates from wine-glass-sweet to a rich purr, with an indefinable accent occasionally teasing its way through.

While the music on Melody Hill seems to have been written with a one-person-with-acoustic-guitar in mind, (see: coffee house), it has been beautifully augmented with keyboards, drums, bass, and tasteful electric guitar. Some songs are more introspective and slow, like “If You Were Me,” or the lullaby-like “Selfish Heartbreak.” Then, we’re treated to the more upbeat and expressive “Don’t Break Me,” or “Love is a Bitch of a Wine (Whine).” “Famous,” featured on her book trailer, is simply haunting, and I’ve had to return to her Blog to hear it again after it ran through my head all day before Melody Hill was available.

Much of the lyrics are filled with longing and conflict, and if I didn’t know that this was a soundtrack, I’d be concerned for the artist’s marriage. There is no shortage of clever lyrics, and it’s clear that Jessica is a diligent student of the craft. I really enjoyed the phrasing of “I wanna wake to see you, pleased to see me” in “Wash Me Away” The pause in the singing gave it a surprising quality that printed word wouldn’t allow.

My only problem with this album is the order of the first two songs. Melody Hill starts with a six-minute introspective that escalates towards the end, and the second is more of an up-beat rock song. Typically, an album starts with the song that the artist would start a concert with; a Here-we-are-let’s-go! song. I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know how this song-order serves the soundtrack function, but I would have reversed this order.

I’d really recommend Melody Hill: On the Other Side, and I look forward to listening to it as I write for NaNowriMo (I use the future tense because I’m posting this eight days into NaNo, so I’m writing this on Halloween). Don’t forget about the Amazon Rush on October 11.


  1. This sounds cool, I will look into it, thanks!

  2. Wow, Will. I'm so stoked you liked this!!! Oh my gosh. Thank you thank you thank you! I can explain the logistics of the song order over email. If you're interested, drop me a line. Cheers, EVAH so much! :o)

  3. Good review, and yeah, I heard Jewel and Sinead as well (no way can one forget her first album). There's also a bit of Patti Smith, but in the end all comparisons drop and it's just her, with her own voice, which is all that's needed.

    Great catch on that phrasing, too. Her lyrics are definitely more poetic than most, and she got some some great musicians to back her up.

  4. I'd compare it to Morisette as well, only better. And I don't listen to this type of music at all, but I found the album to be excellent. My review goes up next week.

  5. Excellent review Will. must look into this.


  6. Interesting review. Jessica Bell must be very talented to have both a book and an album.

  7. Good review. You captured me with Portishead--love that group.

    A Faraway View

  8. Nice blog layout.