Reviews: So Far

MONICA SCHROEDER – So Far (A Different Drum)
Rating: NNNN

Coming from Manitoba is both a blessing and a curse: it’s a great place to hone your craft, but it’s almost impossible to get any outside attention. Monica Schroeder’s dreamy sounds have inspired a few people along the way, but she should be playing packed houses across the country.

Her latest, an airy, atmospheric record that sounds like Sarah McLachlan jamming with David Gray, might finally make her a household name. While the music is pleasant, to say the least, the lyrics deal with darker themes of loss and longing as only a great record from small-town Manitoba can.

There’s a lot to like here, especially for soft rock radio types, but a few tracks, including the Stars-ish City Lights, could win over the indie set, too.

–B Borzykowski
NOW | JUNE 21 – 27, 2007 | VOL. 26 NO. 42

SO FAR (A Different Drum)
8-out-of-10

This week I will continue to look at some of the nominees for the Western Canadian Music Awards which were held in Moose Jaw on the weekend, with four of the nominees for Best Pop Recording.
Monica Schroeder’s latest A Different Drum is a CD that immediately caught my ear. I knew I was in for something solid, or at least I expected so, having years ago reviewed Schroeder’s 2000 release The Expectation of Home, and liking it a lot – and no I don’t recall what I rated it back then. Schroeder had a couple more CDs released before this WCMA nominated one, but sadly I missed those.
I can tell you Schroeder continues to mature as a singer, with a voice which is simply enjoyable to listen too. She might sing a grocery list and you would enjoy listening. I mean that too in the sense the opening cut on this CD City Lights has a somewhat monotonous and repetitious chorus that could easily have turned me off as an opening cut, but Schroeder’s voice carried me through that minor slip in opening song choice. It was still enough to trim a half point off the final rating. Once past the opening cut though, Schroeder’s lyrics get back on track, and she gains strength the rest of the way.
There are some truly beautiful songs here including; Hold On, These Days and November, my personal favourite. Schroeder has a style that would fit into the same slot as say the more famed Sarah McLachlan, and quite frankly to my ear should be up there at the same level based on this fine CD. She has a sound that could easily be on the local Arts Council Stage. Yes it’s pop but so accessible as to please any lover of music.
Check her out at www.monicaschroeder.com, this Manitoba performer will not disappoint.
– CALVIN DANIELS (‘Yorkton this Week’ October 17/2007)

“Monica Schroeder’s music isn’t really what you’d expect to find on a label like A Different Drum. Where as a large majority of the labels acts fit firmly into the genres of Synthpop, New Wave and Electropop. Monica Schroeder’s music seems to take more influence from acoustic Folk and down-tempo Pop, often compared to the likes of Sarah McLachlan. Her third executive release “So Far” offers up a fresh new batch of captivating heart felt ballads following themes of love, loss, and rejuvenation.

Subtly easing us into the album is the potential single “City Lights”. Perhaps one of the strongest tracks on the album, “City Lights” is a perfect example of the high level of Monica Schroeder’s song writing abilities and as an introductory track, it creates the perfect setting for the albums overall theme. Although a lot of the tracks on the album are of a rather sombre nature and often have a dark undercurrent to them, Monica seems to have found a rather unique way of masking the often melancholic lyrical content with the way her music is performed. It’s almost as if she ‘intends’ on misguiding the listener as the album progresses. The track “Return To The Scene” is a fine example of this; although musically one of the more roseate tracks on the album, lyrically this track suggests feelings of rejection and despair and as with a lot of the albums content, leaves you wondering what you should make of it, from an emotional stand point at least. Upon listening to the album more carefully, I noticed that this seemed to be a recurring theme throughout and this in turn gave it a lot more contrast and depth.

As a musician and especially as a song writer, Monica Schroeder’s talent is undeniably strong and “So Far” does show an obvious progression in her work from her previous albums. Everything from the soft guitar and airy piano to the beautiful lyrics and masterful production skills of Joey Belville appears to be of a very high standard. The album could have possibly done with a fair bit more electronic work and could definitely have done with more than just nine tracks but that aside, it is on the whole an immensely interesting and thoughtful addition to any music lover’s collection.”

– Paul Marcham, Connexion Bizarre, 12/16/06

“Hey folks, have I got a treat for you. Monica Schroeder is one of my favorite singers, on account that she’s got one of those fabulously rich and warm voices that make you just melt. She’s got a brand new album out, called So Far, which is just absolutely terrific all the way through: Schroeder’s wistful words and voice lay over a bed of subtle resonant electronics and invite you right in. If I had to describe it in an “X meets Y” sort of way I’d say “Sarah McLachlan meets Blue Nile,” which in my book would be a fabulous thing. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Schroeder’s given me permission to play you the lead single from So Far, called “City Lights.” Click on the player below and you’ll hear it. Bask, people, bask!”

- John Scalzi, 11/06/06

“These songs are beautiful. Well written, expertly performed and professionally produced. “City Lights” is almost mesmerizing. I picture that footage you see sometimes of a nighttime rainy city street with the cars whizzing by at high speed so the lights look like streaks. “Last Song” is just voice and piano – minimal sound but maximum effect. I love it.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a little more of an electronic edge to Monica’s music as well. It’s still a fairly acoustic-y record, but there are some nice layers that work very well with her music. This is especially evident on “Love (Unconditional Edit)” which is downright eerie…and lovely of course. It sounds especially nice on headphones. This is a great record from an artist that I honestly believe should be more popular.”

Amy Lotsberg (Collected Sounds) 01/29/07

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