In today’s world of music it takes a lot for an artist to stand out and for their music to be heard. There’s a constant trend for artists to follow trends, have their songs as produced as possible and stack their debut record with as many collaborators as possible. In the midst of this movement it’s refreshing to see an artist whose primary appeal is their songwriting and voice alone. Jackson native singer-songwriter Stella Mrowicki on her self-titled debut manages to do just that and deliver a genuine organic and personal body of work. The resulting 9 songs are raw, intimate and revealing and showcase a genuine level of craft and insight as well.
From the opening track “Forgive Me” the mood and tone of the album is more than effectively set. The arrangements throughout are sparse yet effective relying upon on pure instrumentation such as an acoustic guitar or a piano. The songwriting in each and every track hits the right amount of honesty, vulnerability and artistry and Mrowicki’s vocals are candid yet soulful offering a strong balance. Her sense of storytelling feels richly detailed and shines through on stand-out tracks “Coffee and Black Tea” and on “War Song” which utilizes metaphor for deep emotional resonance. The way these songs unfold is often gradual yet each track feels fully inhibited and carry their own distinct sense of atmosphere with them.
It’s the level of introspection and perspective here that truly bolsters the impact of the songs featured here. Mrowicki’s exploration of every-day life and it’s struggles is beautifully rendered on tracks such as “Carousel” and “Baby Boy” takes time to examine the feelings of a new relationship with a real warmth and empathy. while the subject matter of relationships, self-esteem and everyday struggles aren’t new, Mrowicki musically and lyrically manages to interpret these themes with an understated grace and sophistication that anchors the record. Another strength of this album is how it builds a space for it’s images and themes musically. The arrangements are fluid yet textured and enhance the depth of the lyricism tremendously. This approach is most notably displayed on highlights “Slow Dance to Me and Mrs. Jones” a tender yet aching ballad that starts off simple yet builds into a wistful and heart-felt number.
The true appeal of this album however may be just how human it feels. In each of her songs Mrowicki lays out her emotions in a frank and unguarded manner. It’s that lack of vanity along with her passionate performances that allow each number to feel compelling. The key track on the album might have to be “Lights” it’s a straight-forward unpolished number but it’s delivery speaks volumes. Mrowicki’s vocals here are raw yet commanding as she searingly yet bravely examines her identity and struggles with just a piano as a backdrop. The resonance of this track serve as a representation of this album’s humanity and vitality and it all comes together seamlessly. It’s moments such as this that point to Mrowicki’s vast potential as an artist and songwriter.
Overall it’s safe to say that in today’s music world many artists are attempting to be heard. Many debut albums have the built-in pressure of having to serve as not just an album but a statement as well. In the case of Stella Mrowicki and her self-titled debut the results prove that pure craft and honest songwriting are a statement in of themselves. Most importantly it shares with us what every strong album should and that’s the human experience. On the whole this album serves as a more than promising debut and is a richly crafted collection of songs. The “Lights” here are shining pretty bright so far.
Songs to Spin: “Lights”, “Coffee and Black Tea”, “Carousel”, “War Song”, “Baby Boy”