TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR.
Lucy Schwartz is a singer-songwriter whose songs have been used in TV shows such as "Arrested Development" and "Parenthood," and in a "Shrek" and a "Twilight" movie. Rock critic Ken Tucker says Schwartz's new album, "Timekeeper," has a commercial sound in keeping with her professional assignments, along with enough satisfying surprises.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GHOST IN MY HOUSE")
LUCY SCHWARTZ: (Singing) There's a ghost in my house but nobody believes me. There's a spirit in the dark that only I can see. And the sirens in my head are calling hallelujah. For the spirits are not dead, they've only gone to sleep. Calling the forgotten...
KEN TUCKER: The first thing you notice about Lucy Schwartz's "Timekeeper" is its author's voice - both her physical voice, which is at once ringing and adroit, and her writer's voice, which is precise yet elusive. When Schwartz sings that song, "Ghost in My House," the production renders her tone in an echoing manner that signifies spookiness. It also suggests a metaphor - memory as a ghost, the haunting of someone who's no longer in her life.
In general, Lucy Schwartz is in love with the sound of her own voice, and for once that phrase is not meant as a criticism. I think she has good reason to be.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEEL SO FINE")
SCHWARTZ: (Singing) Well, if you don't know my name, then you will soon enough 'cause it's written in ink on your forehead. Yes, it's a popular game for the oddly insane. I am you, you are me, we are nothing. And we're just on the brink of more nothing. We just feel so fine every day, all the time. Feel...
TUCKER: Schwartz's blurred croon on that song, "Feel So Fine," links up to the bleary, semi-psychedelic swirl of the melody and production. Frequently on this album, Schwartz sounds like a throwback to another era. Her singing sometimes possesses the spirit of a more lighthearted Laura Nyro, and she has a healthy fondness for The Beatles. She also has a real knack for selling a catchy song, and Schwartz is so confident about it that what she must know is her surest opportunity for a hit single, the song "Boomerang," is buried deep in the 10th position on her album.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOOMERANG")
SCHWARTZ: (Singing) Waiting, waiting. Heartbroken and frustrated. Hard to get around without your love. Feeling, feeling tired of this endless reeling. Hard to get around without your love. I'm immune to the symptoms of romantic affliction, but I'm trying to see the light. Every time you come around, yeah, I only want to say goodbye. Every time you say you're leaving again, I want you back just like my - want you back just like my boom-boom-boomerang. Boom-boom-boomerang. Boom-boom-boomerang. Boom-boom-boomerang. I toss you...
TUCKER: I must admit that when I started listening to "Timekeeper," I wasn't aware of Schwartz's background as a creator of TV and movie music. She's an insider by birth. Her father, David Schwartz, is an LA composer who's scored music for movies and TV shows, including HBO's "Deadwood."
SCHWARTZ: But just because Lucy grew up within a bubble of show biz doesn't lessen my admiration for her own kind of fervent emotionalism. I really like the way a song such as "Curse" builds to its sweeping, surging chorus with a power that just carries you along.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CURSE")
SCHWARTZ: (Singing) I was afraid that the silence would break, scared of rewriting my latest mistake in this life. If you fall over, you blow the house down; then there's nothing left but this sorry old ground in this life. Was it you who put a curse on me? Every time I sing, the keys turn to stone. Was it you who put a spell on me? If ever I touch something, soon it is gone.
TUCKER: There are a few clunkers on "Timekeeper," most notably a song called "Marie Antoinette" that's as precious as the movie of the same name by another showbiz kid, Sofia Coppola. But given the tossed-off complexity of her compositions throughout "Timekeeper" - the way any given song can morph midway through into another sort of story or mood - I like the chances Lucy Schwartz is so energetically willing to take.
On the final song on this album, she implores, don't forget me. There's little chance of that.
GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed the new album "Timekeeper," by singer and songwriter Lucy Schwartz.