SAGE (Minus Parsely, Rosemary, and Thyme)

Mpress Records MP4545-2

With seven previous recordings to her credit since 1996, Rachel Sage is a pop veteran. The cover of her latest depicts her in a gaudy gown and sporting a shade of red hair not found in nature. It’s emblematic of her quirkiness and New York City artistic temperament, but how one reacts to her music will depend on where the line is drawn between art and artifice. Sage claims Elvis Costello as an influence, but her piano-based confessional repertoire is more aptly compared to Nora Jones and Tori Amos, though she’s not as gifted as the former or as adventurous as the latter. When Sage airs out her voice she can be compelling, but when she swallows that air she’s just another generic pop singer. There is, for instance, a soulful edge to “Angel in My View” and gutsiness to “Wishbone.” These stand in contrast to tracks such as “Site-Seeing” and “Invincible” in which whispery tones are lost in a thick instrumental fog. Sage occasionally also crosses the border between dramatic and histrionic. Chandelier has a few luminous moments but too often, like the gown and hair, Sage tries too hard to be cool.

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