For those people who don’t know—and should know better—Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who fuses classical with modern music, such as dubstep and other forms of EDM. She also happens to dance while playing, which is a huge part of the draw, but for me first and foremost is the fact she’s a great composer. As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the songs on her last album, Take Flight, if it was stripped of everything except violin and piano, could be considered one of the best classical compositions of the last fifty years.
In addition to that, this lady is just fun. Besides her amazing music videos—she was a film major in college—she has another YouTube channel of behind the scenes and tour stuff, where you get to know her so well you think she’s been your buddy for years. She’s a lady who personifies the term “adorable badass.” In fact, it might have been invented for her.
On to the new music. As should be expected, the top two songs off this album are the ones released early, which I’ve already reviewed. That feels like so long ago that I was a bit disappointed in my first listen of this album, thinking there was nothing that really slammed me until I remembered the previous two. Usually it takes a while for a song to really worm into my heart—okay, that’s a disgusting metaphor—which is why I decided to take some time, almost a month and maybe a hundred runthroughs, before writing this review.
Gentle plucking gives way to a soft romantic theme, real purty. Then a completely unnecessary vocoder wastes a few seconds before the song bursts into a fast Celtic melody that would not be out of place in Riverdance. This sequence repeats a couple of times. I imagine this is a song Lindsey and her dancers will enjoy doing live; with the right choreo and background this could end up being as much fun as Roundtable Rival.
Brave Enough ft. Christina Perri
Christina’s voice is not bad, although nothing special either. But then I’m not really here for the vocals. One of those reasons is the penchant for a lack of respect to the art of rhyming; too many of these attempts don’t come close.
The music is so much better. I love when the violin plays the vocal melody, reinforcing it. This solo also sounds Celtic, and is the best part of the song. I wish it didn’t end so abruptly into the next verse, though, but at least the outro continues that deliciousness.
And when you realize exactly what the lyrics are about. . . it’s heartbreaking.
Already reviewed here. Best song on the album.
The easy opening goes a little too long before hitting the main melody, which is soft and beautiful as it climbs. A minute later it’s at full power, with a clashing of drums that feels like a gift to Drew, who will go crazy playing this live. There’s a lot to like here, especially the violin, though with so many different parts it feels a little uneven/unfocused to me.
Where Do We Go ft. Carah Faye
Right off the bat, gotta say I’m not liking this singer’s voice. She certainly has the talent, but the tonal quality. . . it sounds like she has a cold. It’s distracting, but I find the more I hear this song the less it bothers me, it’s that good.
The chorus, while simple, is powerful. “Where do we go when our prayers are answered but the answer is no?” In a way it’s almost a perfect song: simple in execution, deep in meaning. As good a “message” song as you’ll likely find.
Those Days ft. Dan + Shay
I was a little wary when told this would be country, but the opening sure didn’t sound like it. In fact, nothing here sounds country at all, to my everlasting relief; no twang in either the vocals or instruments. The music makes this sound like a romantic jaunty non-ballad, but it’s not, if you pay attention to the lyrics.
As always the song shines when we get to the instrumental solo, with Lindsey playing off the melody with much more enthusiasm than between the vocals. Nothing spectacular here, more of a cute interlude. I like the cut ending better than had it faded out.
Possibly the most electronic/techno song, with a fun melody amongst all the other stuff layered in here. In fact, there’s so much here it makes it hard to describe. This is the kind of song where each person could invent their own dance moves for it, but since I’ve seen it live, I can’t get the image of Lindsey shaking her booty out of my mind. . .
Hold My Heart ft. ZZ Ward
A dramatic start gives way to dramatic vocals and violin melody. It’s somehow playful and heavy at the same time. The theme of being a strong woman who still wants love is powerful. On a personal note, there’s more of my pet peeve of misfiring on rhymes, which lessens my enjoyment.
Mirage ft. Raja Kumari
I have a love/hate relationship with Indian music, as I much prefer a sitar to vocals. The violin opening is wonderful, and Lindsey does make what I’m assuming is Excalibur sound like a sitar at times. I’d like to see this in concert just to find out if that’s her doing the extremely fast picking in the middle. The vocals are more melodic than atonal, thankfully. There’s a playful part where it seems the voice and the violin are having a discussion. But even though it’s playful it doesn’t get much further than cute.
Don’t Let This Feeling Fade ft. Rivers Cuomo & Lecrae
Hate rap, hate autotune. Best for me not to attempt a review of this.
At first glance this is an instrumental reminiscent of previous songs that were fun but didn’t make as much of an impression, for example Heist and Night Vision from the last album. But somehow this one is better. Chalk it up to experience; less frenetic, more polished. With alternating slow verses and heavily syncopated chorus, this is an amusing and enjoyable jam.
Love’s Just a Feeling ft. Rooty
This lady has a wonderful bluesy voice, and the violin is delicious. The chorus slows to showcase the vocals, and after it comes the inevitable bigger dance section, all fitting together very well.
With that said, this would get a higher score if the attempts at rhyming weren’t so atrocious.
Something Wild ft. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Already reviewed here. Second best song on the album. Lovely. Speaking of the video, I love how Lindsey filmed Andrew doing the rhythmic clapping. And that’s the first time I’ve seen Lindsey in jeans. . .
For those of you not aware, Gavi was Lindsey’s best friend and keyboardist, who passed away last year, just before the start of recording this album, of complications from the chemo that treated his lymphoma. And it happened after he’d become cancer-free and everything was optimistic, which makes it all the harder.
This may be a simple violin piece with gentle piano under, but that’s what makes it so lovely. Lindsey has said she began writing this with Gavi, so it obviously had a different meaning to it at the time, but as a dirge—only the second I’ve ever liked—it’s spectacular, a fitting remembrance of one of the most important people in her life.
At the end the melody is played as if far away, coming through an old radio or gramophone; I choose to believe this is her interpretation of how it would sound in heaven. . .
The title does not lie. The start is all violin, leading into electronica supporting the melody as it swirls around the dance floor. Feels simple, but there’s more involved here than is first apparent, soaring in the same way Beyond the Veil does near the end.
This is as old-school new age as I’ve heard from Lindsey, with a touch of techno. It’s so playful—reminiscent of Electric Daisy Violin—that I can see dance students using this for their performances. It’s too bad there’s little chance this’ll be played live, as I imagine it would be a ton of fun for Kit and his keyboards.
This has another dramatic beginning, but by the time it settles to just violin and fingersnaps it’s nothing but fun. After that the violin melody feels subtly Arabic, not as much as Yeah! but still noticeable. At some points there’s a bubbly playful keyboard, which somehow manages to fit right in, along with the high female vocalization reminiscent of Take Flight.
at the start this sounds like a continuation of the previous, then jumps into a slightly techno version of a Riverdance-style tune. Lindsey has mentioned that she thought “Space pirates!” about this one, but I don’t hear it.
Can’t help but point out that the extras were more vintage Lindsey, the more playful side of her musicality.
Entire album: 8.5/10
Bonus: The Only Pirate At the Party audiobook
Since I’ve already reviewed her book, this will only involve the vocal version, which I braved even though audiobooks usually put me to sleep.
Right away—I mean at the very start—it shows why in some limited cases this version can be better than the written: music! Not one of my favorite of her songs, but it proves its point. Another of the few ways audiobooks can be better is the way she yells “Scarfman!” with such joy, or the voice she uses when playing her alter-ego Phelba.
But as fun as that is, it can also be painful. When you read in the book “I hope I never have to hire another keyboard player,” it’s hard enough, but to hear her voice breaking as she reads it aloud. . . it’s heartrending, even more so at the end with a special page dedicated to Gavi.
But in general this is more fun than reading it, simply because you can hear the joy in her voice as she remembers certain good memories, as well as her sometimes hammy attempts at accents. I’m heartened to know that, as crazy as I might get, I won’t be the craziest person in the room; there’s a certain freedom to it. (As Lindsey says in her concerts, “Crazy in a good way!”)
BTW, if there’s a sequel it should be called The Only Pirate With a Pedicure.