Sydney Wayser: 'Papa Don't Worry'

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Sydney Wayser. Liz Linder Photography hide caption

toggle caption Liz Linder Photography
Sydney Wayser 300

Sydney Wayser.

Liz Linder Photography

Singer-songwriter Sydney Wayser wears her heart on her sleeve. It's a risky move for any musician who wants to be taken seriously — particularly for one like Wayser, whose song stylings are a bit theatrical to begin with. But on her debut CD, a collection of piano-driven siren songs called Silent Parade, Wayser manages to tread the line between mawkish melodrama and heartfelt elegance with few stumbles.

At the core of Wayser's music is her unabashed love for gloomy orchestrations and waltz rhythms. There's the tinkling glockenspiel, a lone oboe, accordion and creaky string arrangements, with Wayser's piano work steering the ship. It's an appropriate backdrop for her brooding meditations on misery and heartache, all set in a world inhabited by lurking strangers and ghosts of the past. Think Tori Amos or Fiona Apple with fewer dramatic flourishes.

Silent Parade opens with its strongest and most surprising track. "Papa Don't Worry" is lyrically spare, while the instrumentation provides a lush mix of marching drums, strings and piano, with a harmonica that sounds like it was fed over a phone line. The song's most poignant moment arrives in the final minute, as the music fades and gives way to a tenor choir singing a cappella.

"Place De La Bastille" is the album's cheeriest track, with washboard rhythms and rollicking piano lines. The song was inspired by Wayser's love of the film Amelie and her own French roots. Wayser's father is French, and she spent her early years growing up in Los Angeles and Paris.

Just 21 when she wrote and recorded Silent Parade, Wayser possesses a natural gift for melody and musicianship typical of more experienced artists. But her preoccupation with melancholia means there's little change in mood throughout the album, making it difficult at times to distinguish one song from the next. And it's hard for a singer to use words like "grenadine" or "filigree" without eliciting at least a few eyerolls. But Silent Parade holds enough sonic and lyrical surprises to remain affecting.

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