Last month, Lindsey Stirling continued on her genre-busting quest with her latest album, Shatter Me. Like Vertical Horizon, Stirling embarked on a PledgeMusic campaign to fund her album’s recording, offering many juicy exclusives for fans who fronted her some money (full disclosure: I am a pledger to her album, and get to go backstage at her Atlanta show in July!). In a video posted on the PledgeMusic site, she said the album’s title and art reference a difficult time in her life, a time she hopes she never has to revisit.
The album continues with the same formula that made her first one successful: hard-driving electronic beats that complement her violin. As expected from its title, this album has a harder edge, skirting the border between pop and rock. This is most prominent on the title track, which features Lzzy Hale of Halestorm on vocals. It manages to sound like a rock song without the benefit of a guitar, bass, or drums. Perhaps it’s because Stirling plays her violin like a rock guitar, with lots of sixteenth and thirty-second notes strung together (it almost reminds me of a Mark Tremonti solo in parts). Hale’s powerful vocals also contribute to the song’s hard-rockin’ vibe, as well as the lyrics, which appear to talk of overcoming performance anxiety following a traumatic event. One wonders if Lindsey’s experiences with her exit from America’s Got Talent informed this song at all.
“Shatter Me” and “Beyond the Veil” carry the first half of the album, and it takes a turn for the better in “Heist,” which features a nice crescendo entry with synth and bass before the entrance of the violin. After a few tracks in which the dubstep beat is so prominent in the mix that it threatens to overpower the violin’s sound, it falls into more of a complementary role starting with this track. Stirling also experiments with other forms and textures, such as her call-and-response with an electric guitar in “Roundtable Rival.” That particular sequence seems engineered to make the violin sound better for the comparison, as the guitar part largely consists of simple power chords that don’t show off the capabilities of the instrument. Other interesting sounds include a Daft Punk-esque feel in “Swag,” and an Irish dance-like motif in “Master of Tides.”
Another interesting part of the album is how her songs tend to evoke the images she hints at in her titles. For instance, the dubstep beat almost seems to envelop her violin playing in “Beyond the Veil,” suggesting that the violin part is what’s “beyond the veil” of the dubstep beat. The call-and-response of “Roundtable Rival” evokes a duel, and “Take Flight” has a soaring sound, calling forth an image of a bird summoning courage, spreading its wings, and lifting off. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but I feel like many of the titles really fit well with the music.
Everything blends together to create a solid second offering for Stirling fans. Even if you haven’t heard her music before, it’s a good introduction to what she’s about. At times, the “dubstep violin” shtick doesn’t carry the songs far enough to hold the listener’s attention, but once she starts trying different sounds in the second half of the album, they do. I’d like to see her do a more even balance of songs with and without vocals in her next record (a la Apocalyptica), because that would make her albums fresher and more unpredictable as she moves forward in her career. But this album still rates as a buy it.
You can probably see my track picks coming:
“Shatter Me” (ft. Lzzy Hale)
(Had some difficulties with embedding… sorry)