(Hearts & Plugs)
Amber Grace Joyner fits right in with the burgeoning pop-rock roster of Charleston’s Hearts & Plugs — mostly because her music is very much a product of the Holy City’s tight-knit music community. Brave Baby drummer Wolfgang Zimmerman is a clear creative force in the producer’s chair, layering the singer’s lush and gauzy indie pop tunes with offbeat synths and understated drum parts. The arrangements give Joyner’s evocative vocals plenty of room to sway, oozing comfortably through heartbroken tales and brittle kiss-offs.
Joyner’s voice alternately drips sadness and sensuality, allowing her presence to range from the post-modern cabaret of Lana Del Rey to the dreamy refinement of Feist and Neko Case. But whatever the circumstance, she provides almost all of her tunes with an indelible and immediate hook.
But as good as it is, this debut EP takes too many first steps. Bouncy piano numbers like “Other Girls” and “Love of Mine” clash somewhat with the plaintive and adventurous rhythms of “Young Girls” and “Waste of Time,” while the ethereal New Wave rocker “Holy” goes in a different direction entirely — one that doesn’t fit Joyner’s crisp pipes nearly so well.
Still, when everything clicks — as it does on “Be Good,” which balances its jittery beat and balladeering lilt with remarkable ease — it becomes clear that Joyner is capable of capturing indie pop perfection.
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