Dawn Smithson Safer Here

[Kranky; 2005]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: singer-songwriter, bedroom folk
Others: Charalambides, Jandek, Micah Blue Smaldone

What do metalheads do when they want to switch things up? In Dawn Smithson (Jessamine, Sunn 0))), Ginnungagap)'s case, they make morose, rainy-day, solo acoustic albums. Safer Here is exactly what it appears to be. The strikingly bland (this is GYBE's U.S. label, after all) packaging shows Smithson walking through rainy streets, lugging her acoustic guitar. She enters the door, flanked by her white cat. She sits and smokes a cigarette. This album was recorded at home — in Seattle. Naturally. In the press release, Smithson says that Safer Here is "best listened to alone...like watching a melancholy movie that deeply effects (sic) you."

I don't want to be as snarky as I'm inclined to be, but the waily-woman side of Kranky has never done too much for me. Sure, Charalambides is OK, but is it really something of which the listening public craves more? Safer Here is on a roughly similar tip, although the compositions are much shorter, simpler, and more conventional than any release by the aforementioned group, and certainly lower-key than anything on Sunn 0)))'s resume. The track names are almost laughably predictable: "Safer Here" leads to "Somewhere Far," "Nowhere Near," and "Crossroads." Most of the songs here are simply Smithson singing simple, meandering melodies over repetitive guitar figures, usually not more than three chords or a couple progressions. Here and there, there are bright spots, like the pretty electric guitar riffs and layered vocal harmony on "Letter to the Empire" and the brooding, richly textured "How Thoughtless," but Safer Here is all brooding. It's an effective mood piece, sure, but when $12 can buy the new Deerhoof album — or, hell, the new Sunn 0))) — it seems to me that the money's worth more than that to which Safer Here aspires.

1. Safer Here
2. Somewhere Far
3. Nowhere Near
4. Ticking Away
5. Speak Through Me
6. How Thoughtless
7. Letter to the Empire
8. A New Day
9. Crossroads

Most Read