Foxy Digitalis gives "Becca Rice" 9/10 stars
by Matt Blackall,
Illinois-based singer-songwriter Becca Rice's debut is the product of 2001-2005 stint living overseas in England and Ireland. The songs on her EP were recorded in the last two years of her time abroad and make use of what she was able to carry with her, namely her guitar, accordion, and voice (along with some added piano that she happened to find in her adopted homes). Rice's singing is worthy of special mention, as it serves as a great compliment to her instrumental work. It's understated when it has to be, but rises to put the necessary punctuation on a song. Recording everything on her digital four-track, Rice created an excellent package of melancholy, lo-fi, folky pop tunes. She certainly made the most of what she had at hand, and each of the songs on this seven song EP are surprisingly complex and evocative, even at their most stripped down.
The EP opens on an extremely high note with the track "The Unhappy." Rice combines a lulling guitar riff punctuated by chiming piano notes, and even manages to sneak in some vocal harmonies toward the end of the song (by double-tracking her own voice, of course). Another standout is the piano-driven "Ballad in Halflight." This slightly country-flavored song finds Rice singing, "We'll sleep in the halflight and lay there undaunted, forgive me these unlucky things." Throughout the EP, Rice's lyrics add another strong dimension to the music, managing to enhance the emotional content of the instrumental music, rather than upending it, as some lyrics can do. "High Strung" also showcases some of Rice's great lines. Set over a background of guitar and light piano, she sings, "Hit the wall again, I knew you would / Transatlantic I know I everything you do / Are you jumping high enough to see the sky?" Even though the lyrics rely on some concrete imagery, there's enough ambiguity to allow people to find their own unique meaning in the words, which brings Rice's music even closer to the hearts of her listeners.
Another important aspect of the music is the quality of the recording itself. I'm sure I don't have to trumpet the virtues of lo-fi recording around these parts, but it does seem worthy of mention in this case. Every song is veiled behind a thin wall of fuzz and hiss, which enhances the hazy, dreamlike quality of the disc. Rather than hiding anything, this has the pleasant effect of softening the edges and making the entire affair sound more personal and accessible.
Altogether, Rice's self-titled debut is a powerful release. Her strong set of songs clearly come from a place with a lot of significance to her, but she manages to bring in her audience with well-constructed music accented by just a touch of mysteriousness. There's definitely a lot to love in the short space of this EP, from beautiful piano and guitar riffs, to delicately sung lyrics. It's a brief journey, but one worth taking over and over again. 9/10