Stephanie White/New Jersey Philth Harmonic - This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (2009)

Stephanie White/New Jersey Philth Harmonic
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The album title is brilliant, organic and spicy. And, it matches the murky, bluesy soul of Jersey 's Stephanie White & the Philth Harmonic (yes, it's pronounced "filth."). Her brand of soul draws easy Amy Winehouse comparisons and carries hints of Corrine Bailey Rae and Joss Stone. The sound is a bright, eclectic blend of pop, classic rock and soulful AC. Yet, contrasting this musical potpourri are downtrodden lyrical themes that are borderline depressive. This may sound like an utterly confusing paradox, but it's a marriage that works for White and her band. Take notice of "Can't Get You Outta My Head," a James Brown-natured juke joint frenzy. All that fun in the exciting rhythms, but a handful of agonizing frustrations embedded in the lyrics.

For the most part, ...Nice Things doesn't compromise that formula, even when journeying through reggae-rock offerings like "Blissful Ignorance" or on sad ballads like "Broken." The claustrophobic "Emerald City Blues," a seven-minute blues anthem highlighted with oboe chants in the place of background singers, enters into an even darker climax with an electric guitar solo channeling the rock demons of Metallica. "Cheat On My BFFL" is a charming country-reggae tune that features a kiddy chorus reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." White's cover of Go West's "King of Wishful Thinking"-probably a crowd favorite in local shows-is a pleasant addition as well (even if White's confidence in being a "king" stirs some confusion). Philth Harmonic, led by drummer and multi-instrumentalist Robbie LaFalce, Jr., proves to be a four-star outfit designed perfectly for White's soulful performances. Although the slightly rough final mix delivers more of a raw, live presentation than a studio polish, White's impressionable pop and her hearty band gives ...Nice Things the necessary adrenaline needed for a satisfying and entertaining record.

Notable tracks: "Cheat On My BFFL," "Can't Get You Outta My Head," "Figure It Out," "King of Wishful Thinking"

Vocals: 2.5 stars
Lyrics: 3.0 stars
Music: 3.5 stars
Production: 2.0 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended

By J. Matthew Cobb

 
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