Perfectionist Coco Reilly Waits Three Years To Release Her Skillfully Crafted Debut

Coco Reilly | Coco Reilly | (Golden Wheel)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

There are musical perfectionists and then there is Coco Reilly. The singer/songwriter was so determined to release a debut reflecting the sound in her head that she took three tries recording it before she was satisfied. Then she waited three years to release the nine songs.

While it’s hard to justify all that work and time spent on these tracks, the total of which barely break a half hour, this is an impressive, skillfully crafted work. You won’t read much about this disc without some combination of “dream pop,” “noir” and “breathy.” The latter describes Reilly’s intriguing vocals as her voice floats over music that’s retro but never musty or dated. Co-producer Jerry Bernhardt, who also worked similar magic with Erin Rae’s 2018 Putting On Airs, captures this pensive ambiance and adds psychedelic touches to create a swirling, rather low key but provocative soundscape.

There are plenty of Beatles, at times more Badfinger,-styled touches to tunes like “Mirror.” The composition “Oh Oh My My,” with its laconic vocals and muted pop approach could be a cover of an unrecorded Aimee Mann song. Echoes of Phil Spector’s touch are present too, but in a much less ostentatious way than the Wall of Sound he favored. Reilly’s words get a little lost in the sumptuous sonic haze but there is a defined melancholy groove to this album’s mid-tempo ballads. As the disc winds its way through its final third, the songs take a more meandering path. That means you’ll need to return to selections like “Light” with its Abbey Road influences often for their charms to become clear.

Still, the majority of the album quickly establishes its overall intent. Things kick off with a slow, metronomic drumbeat on the opening “The Truth Will Always Find a Way,” which locks down the groove for the following half hour. Listening with headphones enhances the experience since Reilly’s layered overdubs are more apparent…and impressive the more you focus on them.

The multi-instrumentalist’s calm demeanor never wavers even when she’s singing “I’ve been shaken to my core,” over a crying slide guitar on the lovely and emotional “Suited.” Occasionally things get a little too laid back as on “After All” which takes a while to find its chorus with Reilly’s voice staying in the background as reverbed guitars ring and angelic supporting singers enhance the dreamy vibe.

Perhaps now that Reilly has found a sympathetic co-producer and clarified her direction, the next album won’t take as long to gestate. As 2020 debuts go, this one, notably recorded in 2017, takes its place as one of the year’s finest and certainly most focused releases.      

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