Thursday, July 23, 2015

Olivia Quillio - Get Down and Pray (2015)

Since the recording and release of her debut full length record The Bomb, Troy, NY based singer/songwriter Olivia Quillio has had a considerable amount of life shakeups: she fell in love, she had her heart broken, she survived. That might sound a bit dramatic but deep in the throes of heartbreak successfully completing that last part might not seem all that certain. With sophomore record Get Down and Pray, Quillio chronicles her year of emotional tumult and all the life lessons she's learned during and after. In that way Get Down and Pray proves a worthy successor to The Bomb; her intimate yet accessible brand of heartbreak pop leveled up by her maturity.

Beginning with an album version of "New Home", a track Quillio released the demo version back in 2012, it's given new breath on the album, more meaningful after Quillio's cross-country sojourn found her settling right back into her Upstate NY music community that served as the song's inspiration. "New Home" serves as Get Down and Pray's thesis statement - its seraphic harmonies almost at odds with the passionate fervor Quillio infuses in it. "Now matter how it unfolds, I will love you now - however I can" Quillio offers and effectively sets up the ebbs and flows of the album.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Get Down and Pray is that for all the negativity that spawned it, Quillio approaches the album with a beguiling lightness; there's no bitterness left in her. Quillio allows herself a full spectrum of emotions - practically beaming deliveries on "Stranger" and title track "Get Down and Pray" to offset those quieter introspective moments.

Where The Bomb delved into Quillio's jazz roots both in its supporting players and moments like "Weight/Wait", Get Down and Pray is a more effective synthesis of both her training and her interests from the downright soulful in "Righteous Arms/Honest Hands" and "The Warning" to the country swagger of "Held Back My Hair". Her love and talent for folk music wins though, pervasive throughout the album and aided by the presence/persistence of pedal steel and banjo.

There's no doubt that Get Down and Pray is a cathartic album. As far back as her earliest demos Quillio has displayed a commendable lyrical guile - able to articulately transform her own experience into something not only universally applicable but enjoyably so. Quillio arms herself with her vulnerability, her emotional honesty deployed with graceful aplomb. It's no surprise that while Get Down and Pray builds upon itself that it's most winsome moments are the most bare - songs like "Get You/Get Me", and stunning album ender "Your Truth" that pit Olivia Quillio against herself. They never fall completely in sob story moroseness and "Your Truth" stands out as the culmination of Quillio's heartbreak and disappointment. While it's more alluded to than deeply felt elsewhere on the album "Your Truth" is the levy breaking moment where what Quillio has learned hasn't superseceded the actual feelings that inspired them. It's an absolutely devastingly beautiful moment both standalone and for all the work that Quillio has done to lead up to that moment. If there was any doubt about Olivia Quillio's lyrical potentness, it's banished here, deeply felt from "I lost all my fear in the battle" and growing exponentially with her every subsequent narrative writhe and coo.

Olivia Quillio's sophomore record Get Down and Pray is available now. You can isten to it in its entirety/ buy & download via Bandcamp.

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