Home Read Albums Of The Week: Odetta Hartman | Swansongs

Albums Of The Week: Odetta Hartman | Swansongs

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Following her debut mini-LP 222 and 2018’s Old Rockhounds Never Die (which saw her touring her unique performance style — part Jack White rock ’n’ roll folk blues, part electronic experimentations — with the likes of Let’s Eat Grandma, Cosmo Sheldrake and Skullcrusher), Odetta Hartman returns with her strongest set of songs to date. Swansongs is another fever dream of a record that includes the experimental pop of Goldilocks, the dramatic string lead single Dr. No and her radical re-working of the traditional Motherless Child, first made famous by her namesake Odetta.

Equally inspired by AG Cook’s Apple and New Orleans trad jazz, the musical mixology of these songs cycle spans various genres of folk, Americana, pop, punk, soul, ambient and spiritual. Lyrically, it tenders the tension of two truths in opposition, through its inquisition of the interplay between fear and desire. Dichotomy is at the heart of this deep exploration into shadow work, mythological musings, healing frequencies, eclectic expressions, and the art of sculpted sound.

Constrained by the unique circumstances of modern isolation, Odetta and her co-producers — Alex Friedman and Wyatt Bertz — found their approach mitigated by the digital interface of remote collaboration. Synthesizers worked overtime to translate plunky banjos into lush wooden textures and shape white noise transitions into ASMR delights.

They cast the widest nets in spite of life’s limitations and diligently discovered unexpected inside jokes. Versions upon versions ended up on the cutting-room floor until the songs resembled quilted sound collages woven by meticulous hands. Together they sharpened their tools and created a cathartic snapshot to capture the lightning of the historic moment. Swansongs is a dynamic and powerful reflection of love and ambition, hopeful, energetic and at times chaotic but always captivating.

The single Goldilocks arrived alongside a video directed by Bao Ngo. “This Grimes-inspired track first originated as a sassy banjo ditty, written backstage in-between sets in San Francisco,” Hartman says. “Its next phase jumped into an early 2000s rock vibe (a la The White Stripes) with the help of bandmates Lucy Arnell and Wyatt Bertz while on tour with Lola Kirke. In its final combined iteration — saturated with lyrical references to fairy tales & my favorite musical, Gypsy — it became a bombastic dance bop, a tongue-in-cheek pep talk, a vaudeville striptease, a whip cracking manifesto.”

Of the video, Odetta continues: “Inspired by the Wizard of Oz technicolor transition, the music video for Goldilocks opens in the same black-and-white locale of Dr. No, but now the developing Swansongs world blossoms from Catskills gothic to Vaudeville gimmick. The lyrics to the femme power anthem directly reference Gypsy (‘Let me entertain you, let me make smile, I can do a few tricks, some old and then some new tricks I’m very versatile, and if you’re real good, I’ll make you feel good, I want your spirits to fly’), so we wanted to bring some old-school stage silliness into the visual accompaniment.”