Arielle Silver,
3 Minute Song
(LionsRoar, 1999)

The very first track is a lie. That is, it doesn't live up to its title: "3 Minute Song" actually clocks in at 4:33. That minor inaccuracy aside, Arielle Silver has put together a strong solo recording of mood-wrenching vocals and a somber guitar. (And, for the record, she closes the album with a 3-minute instrumental reprise of the tune.)

Arielle's intention here is to lay emotions bare, and she cautions listeners about what to expect with her very first lines: "Be forewarned that you are welcome in my world, / but nothing here is sacred, no secrets stay for long / I can sit at my desk, you'll take your place on the couch / and purge your soul to me, I'll be your dumping ground."

But it's her own emotions Arielle bares in these original songs, which reach deeply into her psyche and unveil a troubled place there. Needless to say, the album isn't great listening when your spirits are high. When you're feeling a bit glum, however, it's perfect. Arielle sings with an introspective flair and in some cases gut-twisting pain in her voice -- comparing favorably to Tori Amos when Tori's in one of her blacker moods, although Arielle's voice is a touch deeper, edgier, breathier.

And Arielle doesn't leaven the album's darkness with any hints of levity; the overall tone is reflected in lines like these: "The problem with living one day at a time is you get days like these" ("Blue Room") and "I know that life is what you make it, but I'm so tired" ("Under a Bright Light"). There are equal parts poetry and pain in this music, spiced with pinches of anger, heartbreak and desperation. Arielle isn't singing about love and hope.

She offers problems but no easy solutions in songs like "Cocaine," where she recognizes the problem in a friend but has no answer to give. "Do you know I feel forsaken? But I know this ain't about me. / It's about your new best friend, Cocaine. I don't know what to say." "Insignificance" delves into the problem of weight-obsessed women and girls who are "starving into insignificance."

I'm not going to pretend this is a fun album. But music, like life, isn't just about fun, and this one reaches deep into the painful parts of life and thrusts them into the open for everyone to see. Arielle's voice is a perfect vehicle for the powerful words she's put together for this album, and I doubt you'll walk away from this album unaffected.

The odd thing about depression is its power to initiate change. Listen to 3 Minute Song and then decide if you're going to wallow in the feelings it evokes, or if you will pull yourself back up and find the silver linings.

[ by Tom Knapp ]