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Caitlyn Smith

Supernova – 2020 (Monument/Sony)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Caitlyn Smith

A lover of the cosmos and all things mystical, Caitlyn Smith continues with her astronomy-themed discography on her sophomore album, "Supernova," the follow up to 2018's "Starfire." The opening track, "Long Time Coming" starts out with a punishing drum beat and morphs into a heavily distorted guitar solo, which suggests angry heartbreak and its accompanying frustration. However, Smith bills the song as a "little anthem of hope to myself," having just finishing up maternity leave and dealing with six months of postpartum depression.

Much of the album is introspective, drawing from life experiences ranging from aging parents and realizing how short life can seem to becoming a new mother. However, it is not as somber as one might expect given the sources of her inspiration. In fact, the pleasing melodies and glossy production belie some of the heavy-handed material. "I Can't" finds her struggling in a place she wants to leave behind but the melody is pleasing. "Midnight in New York City," is a memory of one of many fun evenings when she and her band didn't want the night to end in one of her favorite cities.

She has a big voice that can blow up a studio session. No vocal pyrotechnics here. Some songs do have a big, ethereal sound. The best numbers are those with sparse arrangements where her voice is silky and steady as on "Rare Bird." "Put Me Back Together" is indicative of the character of many of the songs. It is a study in contradiction. She chastises the man in her life for his wrongdoings and alienation and even drops an F bomb all within a silky melody and whispery upper range vocal that does not portray any sense of real anger

The standout title track is a fine example of less is more. The deft piano and rich strings envelop Smith's silky vocals. Each little song is almost like its own little supernova - being a bright, beautiful, shining blast. She said, "I kind of pictured each of these songs as tiny little supernovas of human emotion, everywhere from deep loss to loneliness to fear to love and everything in between." Thematically, that is accurate, but sonically it doesn't really give that impression.