Stefanie Bannister I Admit I am Glad
It’s damn near impossible to play a ukelele and sound dangerous — or punk, or anything other than cute and sunny. But despite its title, this debut album from Columbia’s Stefanie Bannister injects more than just happiness into its uke-driven indie folk.
Like better known Internet-era luminaries such as Danielle Ate the Sandwich, the uke is Bannister’s primary instrument, with the other players on this mostly bare-bones recording serving as accents around her plucky centerpiece. She plays well enough to make one almost forget that she’s playing a uke, but without its unique sound, Bannister might seem like just another mopey indie crooner writing dreary ballads. Instead, she’s immediately endearing, with an enduring impression formed on brief yet complicated cuts such as “Dirt Home.”
She waxes dreamy and introspective on the mellow “Chile Song,” a lightly strummed long-distance goodnight. “Grown Up Joke” uses some fingerpicked runs to set off an unexpectedly moving lyric about meeting others’ expectations — “They think I’m a smart young lady / God knows where they get this stuff.”
“Liar Song” is the best of the bunch, with a hooky chorus and sarcastic lyrics that are equal parts Cindy Lee Berryhill and Mary Lou Lord. Drummer Nick Jenkins provides a propulsive presence, and the last line brings everything abruptly full-circle, repeating the opening words during a sudden standstill.
“It’s got most every song I’ve ever written on it,” Bannister writes in her notes for the online edition of the album. If that claim is true, then she’s yet to write a bad one. — Kevin Oliver
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