On Elusive, Californian singer-songwriter Adrina Thorpe delivers an impressive debut album, packed with thoughtful songs that are beautifully written, beautifully arranged, beautifully performed and beautifully sung. Drawing deep from the well of a host of great singer-songwriters, from Carole King through to Tori Amos, Thorpe succeeds without ever freefalling into the all too common trap of imitation. Rather, the album portrays a noble interplay of heritage and influence, and it’s to startling effect. Musically, the songs range from intimate piano ballads, with their hints of her classical training, to more up-tempo pop songs, whilst lyrically touching on the all-encompassing concerns of life and spirituality.
Opener ‘Fly Fly Fly’ is a slice of well-crafted pop, boasting the creamy production skills of Dave Bassett (Lisa Loeb, Jane Wiedlin) and Phil Swann (Lee Ann Womack), kicking the album off in uplifting fashion. The remaining nine songs then ebb and flow through moods and experiences ranging from the difficulties of being seen as more than just a daughter in ‘More Than Seventeen’, through loss and regret (‘Wistful’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Correction’ — the latter finding Thorpe in dependable Sarah McLachlan piano ballad mode, not surprising given that the Lilith era figurehead is Adrina’s musical idol), to hope and redemptive love in ‘Elusive’, ‘Never Meant’ and ‘With Hope’.
In the album’s gentler moments, Thorpe’s delicate piano playing weaves memorable harmonies and melodies around the poignant and heartfelt words, before soaring above the tight full band arrangements on the bouncier numbers. Though her vocals are both pure and clear, they bear an attractive hint of breathiness that makes for a very intimate sound. The production is entirely complementary to both the singer and songs, with the vocals sitting forward in the mix but still meshing well with the backing. Having been composing since the age of six, Thorpe has had plenty of time to get her debut just so, and indeed it is a strong start, made all the more impressive for being independently produced.
[Self-released; October 1, 2004]