Clare Means – Sidewalk Astronomy
Clare Means trickles down through her thought provoking, wandering lyrics like a young child on adventure. It’s as though she’s jumping in puddles, blowing dandelions and swinging in the sun sponging all of societies emotions and grit. How many moments as children (or as adults) did we spend staring at the stars in search of meaning?
In the album, Sidewalk Astronomy, Means needs little help searching for her own space, she wastes little time not only sounding great, but makes you feel a part of her story. The invitation is not only welcomed, you became a participatory listener.
Kicking off the album is the sorrowful, yet hopeful track, “Bobby.” Missed chances and ticking time clocks are explored in Mean’s ode to her late father. Her exploration of regret and comparisons to a dying tree come across only in the weathered plucking of her guitar. Her voice is young – not in an immature way – but rather an innocent sounding portrayal. “Bobby” is a beautiful opening and lingering song. The softness of her voice juxtaposed with the mature, well beyond her years lyrics make for a delightful start.
“Danger” and “Fiery One” are both out of the gate with noticeably interesting hooks and Means’ steady vocals. While she keeps within her range – and at times throughout Sidewalk Astronomy she sounds sound very similar – she’s clever enough to change it just a smidge each song. Songs like “Master Manipulator Magnet,” “Guts,” “Circle,” “Buried in Your Dreams” and “Hollywood Zoo” show a bit more personality, but overall Means stays in her lane. She has a certain stamp she impresses upon each track. It works for her. She uses her lyrics to wrap you around her personality, not so much so with her vocal range.
I think listeners will have an immediate reaction to Mead’s voice. She’s very easy to listen to and doesn’t over produce the tracks. Her voice is folksy, yet hipster enough to make you feel like you’re listening to Rilo Kiley, Neko Case or even Regina Spektor. What you will miss out on is percussion, but Means fills the gaps with her masterful piano work and impressive guitar playing. The songs sound full and each have a unique electronic quirk slipped in at the beginning or throughout.
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Sidewalk Astronomy doesn’t wander too far from a solid, overall album. I liked the personality of this collection. Means’ impresses with her laid back style, mixed with feisty lyrics and generous artistry. She’s vulnerable and wears her heart on her sleeve. While others stare at the sky and wonder – Clara Means sets a solid path towards sharing her voice and her unique talents all from the pavement. The next time you walk past an artist singing their heart out on a street corner or in the subway stairs – think back to the unleashed confidence in such an artist as California’s Clare Means.