First Impressions: 5 Reasons To Smile About Izzi Dunn's Latest

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Tits & Ass" was just too brash to ignore. With its biting and assertive feminist wordage, Izzi Dunn had a captive audience with me based on a song that called out the surge of demoralizing of women in today's media obsessed world. She is woman, hear her roar. Anxiously I was awaiting for what Cries & Smiles, the British singer and cellist's sophomore effort, would bring, exclusively based on the effective nature of "Tits & Ass".  Luckily, it was brought back to my attention (thanks SoulUK!) and eagerly I gobbled it up Cookie Monster style, because's good...and you know I usually talk about something if it is good. Dunn brings an impeccable classiness to Cries & Smiles, as she bridges old fashioned soul in with classical elements and an expression of funk. But I'm giving away too much...thus you need 5 reasons that Dunn will make you smile about this album to fully convince you that it's one of 2010's best.

1. Song: Nothing But Love
Currently the song is coasting as the second single, and it's deeelightful. Effortless soul with just the right touch of R&B and a slight Dusty Springfield nod, but its not totally saturated so that modern ideas can peek through. It is also the lone romantic track on here, even though it takes a slight satirical stance and pokes fun at those who fall too head over heels for all the wrong reasons.

2. Instrumentals
As much as I utilize words, they usually take a back seat when I first listen to a song, and Dunn's album kept me occupied first with all the delectable instrumental backdrops and arrangements. There is one lone instrumental track, the wildly impressive "Gangster Bitch" (the tongue n' cheek hip-hop titles seem to be a theme...), but almost all of the tracks are seeped in the feeling that Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra was a massive influence in this. Due to Dunn's orchestral background, she had an ear on how inserting her classical knowledge into a soul setting can work, making for a perfect mating of classical and soul, with all the ballroom snob rubbed out. 

3. Cohesion & Lyrics
Clocking in at ten songs, Cries & Smiles may seem a tad short of a usual album, but ten tracks are all you really need because the songs are condensed enough in their sound and subject matter that less is definitely best. Plus it's a nice throwback to vinyl days. Personally, I'm more impressed with Dunn's approach to making a non-typical R&B/Soul record where romance is put on the back burner, and songs about being content being left of center in society, like the gorgeous "Oblivious" are prevalent. It shows that Dunn has wit and charm that is of her own specialty. Songs like "Analogue Girl" are 21st Century ready, as it involves an inner battle with the woes of the technology age, she goes as far as dubbing herself a "retrosexual" and express a need for simplistic non-Internet communication.

Analogue Girl 

4. 'Plastic Soul' It Is Not
There is such a thing as "plastic soul", where an artist adopts, but doesn't adjust to the soulful tones of yesteryear, making their music sound mimicked and well...plastic. There has been a lot of that running rampant since the genre of Motown/vintage soul became the "cool kids lunch table" thing to do. Dunn can comfortably sit at the "cool kids lunch table" as she has managed with Cries & Smiles to escape from being compared to her fellow Brits like Winehouse, Adele, and Duffy, but really utilize her own voice and style. She's more Alice Russell than Winehouse if you want a comparison, and really that is fine by me. Dunn can rest assured, though, that her sound is classic enough to hear the influences of a by-gone era, yet she keeps it fresh for 2010 ears. 

5. Song: Cries and Smiles
A nice fusion of house mixed in with some neo-soul capability, not to mention fast paced and witty lyrics that expresses Dunn's love for the hip-hop rhyme game. Choice lyric: "it's so hard to get the story when you're reading lips and all you get is tabloid talk and Tarantino scripts."

Rating: 9.6/10
Release Date: August 23, 2010

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