It's five years since Swiss-born, New School graduate singer/songwriter Eliane Amherd released Now And From Now On (Self Produced, 2011). The easy-on-the-ear melodies and upbeat rhythms from that debut album are still a central part of Skylines, but those extra five years show in Amherd's more mature writing style and wider musical imagination.
Skylines opens with a torch song, of sorts. "Never Is" has all the makings of a classic torch song -strong, evocative, melody and lyrics of lost love -but the lost love isn't a person, it's New York. Amherd is still there, but the relationship is fading: "it never is like it used to be" she sings, but adds "New York, it isn't you it's me."
Elsewhere, a mix of soul and funk is often the key feature of the songs, aided and abetted by some Latin and Afro beats -at times both Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott-Heron spring to mind. Guest saxophonist Marcus Strickland helps to up the jazz quotient. Amherd's version of Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done For Me Lately" is instantly recognisable but with just enough variation -and a bit more funk -to set it apart from the original. On "Counting Grains Of Sand" the sparse instrumentation, military-style drum rolls and bright but controlled guitar create tension and drama. Jeremy Lawton's Hammond B3 gives the ballad "Knowing That I'm A Fool" more of a bluesy feel.
"Andromeda" -both the original and the remix by Bill Ware, who played vibes on Now And From Now On -is slinky and smart, Amherd's voice is at its most seductive and the ensemble playing is spot on.
The five extra years have paid off. Amherd's music is fun, funky, sassy and cool -and deserving of much wider recognition.
Never Is; Gonna Get Up; Money Ain't No Friend Of Mine; Knowing That I'm A Fool; What Have You Done For Me Lately; Turn The World Around; Counting Grains Of Sand; Andromeda; Don't Wanna Be; Courage (Bill Ware Mix); Andromeda (Bill Ware Mix).
Eliane Amherd: vocals, guitar; Marcus Strickland: saxophone; Jeremy Mage: keyboards; Jeremy Lawton: Hammond B3; John Burdick: synthesizer; Gustavo Amarante: bass; Hagar Ben Ari: bass; Jennifer Vincent: cello; Willard Dyson: drums; Mathias Kunzli: drums; Ze Mauricio: percussion.
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