Clare Means releases LP
’So often singer-songwriters are shuffled to the constraining walls of a coffee shop, or in Clare Means’ case, the boardwalks and sidewalks of Los Angeles. The background noise, the reflective atmosphere of both either capture listeners’ attentions or artists can be come just another voice, just another face in the crowd. Clare Means a remarkable singer-songwriter and her collection of genre crossing songs in Sidewalk Astronomy proves she’s not only watching her passer-byers, she’s onto something.
With her subtle serenading and lyrical mastery, Means words blend like paintbrushes to a canvass. Her voice reminds me a bit of Joni Mitchell, but has the modern appeal and depth of say, Tori Amos. (She’s missing the angst of Tori Amos, but she definitely has the talent.) Still, in songs like the title track, and “Bobby” she moves through the songs like a treasured friend sharing her diary with you over a cup of coffee.
She breathes life into “Bobby,” a song she said in a release that she wrote after the death of her father. Her lyrics and her vocal prowess give you the sense that she’s very sad, but at the same time, she’s dealing with her loss by throwing out the waste in her life…no longer clinging to regrets. Strangely, I listened to this song during the week of marking 50 years since Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. The other Bobby taught us so much in times of grief and death that I found it fitting and remarkable to listen to Means’ “Bobby.” His words and her words still resonate.
Among the other standout songs on Sidewalk Astronomy, include “Master Manipulator Magnet” and the brooding “Hollywood Zoo.” She picks up the tempo and quick-whips the listener down a more pop rock path. “Master Manipulator Magnet” made me laugh – who here hasn’t had a string of that certain person in their life that time and time again gets what they want and you get stuck footing the bill? Sigh. To hear these songs live, in the context of Means as a sidewalk artist, would be impressive. She without a doubt would stop foot traffic.
“Fiery One” also had me hanging onto her every word. I loved the lyrics, “You offer your hand and I give you my fist…I’m not that devil dancing with you.” This song reminded me a bit of The Dixie Chicks minus the twang.
I also enjoyed “Danger” and “Always With Me.” She gracefully tickles the piano. Her voice soothes at the same time, she sounds like the smartest person in the room. What breathe of fresh air her voice is!
Clare Means gets high marks and regards for her simplistic, yet fits-like-a-glove and reads like your favorite book, 11-track Sidewalk Astronomy. Stars are in her future, and at the very least, like Libra, Means balances beautiful lyrics with cascading pianos and memorable guitar riffs. Her perspective and her artistry are inspiring. Her voice is endearing.