Both Sides Now
Cynthia Lin revels in her multiple musical selves in her new album doppelganger.
Published: Friday, January 25, 2008
One of the songs on Cynthia Lin's first album, blue and borderlined (2004), is titled "I'm Shy." Such a statement describes the album's overall stripped-down showcase of her strong vocals with the sole accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. The five tracks present a demure, even cautious, relationship between Lin and her recordings. That "I'm Shy" is the last song on the album makes her newest release, doppelganger, that much more of a surprise for its assured, developed songwriting and performance.
The title alone seems to dictate Lin coming to terms with the growth of her musical self, or selves in this case. Whereas blue and borderlined is tinged with almost Norah Jones-esque quietness whose songs sometimes fall into lethargic anonymity (not always a good thing), most of the six original songs in doppelganger each tells its own story with a convincing energy, whether it is slow jazz-like or up-tempo.
This is not to say that doppelganger is a complete reversal of blue and borderlined. The gem of the latter is the album's title opening track, "Blue and borderline"; its jauntiness anticipates doppelganger's own brilliant opening track, "Skipping in NYC." Another standout track from the first album, "California" -- for its more powerful vocal and somewhat hard-edged guitar melody -- finds an even harder-edged beat on the second album in "Doppelganger."
The main difference between the two -- outside of the 3-year gap in releases -- is the addition of other instrumental accompaniment on doppelganger that creates a classy pop-jazz sound and texture. Strings, brass, and various percussions underline the depth of Lin's songwriting skills rather than overwhelming it. "Doppelganger," a track unlike no other on the album, is driven by hard drum beats that take the place of the usual acoustic guitar with which Lin performs. And it's a gratifying move because the song breaks up the quiet flow found on the first record that could have been repeated on doppelganger. Percussion is a lovely thing; just ask Forro in the Dark. It'll be interesting to see where this aspect of Lin's songwriting takes her. On "Perfect," Lin trades her acoustic guitar this time for a string accompaniment, which provides a dramatic flair to her lyric of "perfect does not exist.
Other notable tracks are "Water Torture" and Lin's remake of Cyndi Lauper's classic "Time after Time." The latter song is honestly a great track: the strength of Lin's vocal and musical adaptation keeps the original version's wistful offer of hope and love while making sure that the listener understands it's specifically Lin's interpretation.
Perhaps the West Coast will be able to see more of Lin's interpretations of her own tracks (and otherwise) in a live setting as she plans to embark on a promotional tour in March. Meanwhile, you can listen to her music by visiting either her official site or her MySpace page.