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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Sarah VonderHaar

Are You Listening Now?

Review by Gary Hill

You have to give a lot of kudos to a person for having the finger in a lot of artistic pots. Sarah VonderHaar certainly gets points for that – and for doing it all at the age of 21. She’s a model (and has been featured on Top Model), actress, photographer and now musician. While a lot of modern artists seem to be thrown into the multi-mold to make more cash for the media entity to which they are signed, this feels more real than that. It’s more like she’s exploring these various forms of expression because she’s driven to do so.

Such drive and passion would lead one to expect exceptional things from VonderHaar. Therein is the one real weakness of this CD. It really isn’t all the exceptional – or different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely strong pop music that should do quite well on the radio. It should also get her a lot of fans. It’s well written and performed. It’s just not exceptional. It doesn’t seem to have an identity of its own, but rather feels like it could have been released by any number of artists out there.

The truth of the matter, is, though, since this is her debut release, individuality and a sense of uniqueness may well be on their way with future albums. If so, this is a great start. What it lacks in building its own character it more than makes up for with talent and class. If it didn’t leave room for growth, where would she have to go next?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
All Mine
From the cheery opening this is catchy and quite strong. It’s hard not to get caught up in the energy and cheer of the song.
Over You
Here we get a more thoughtful and contemplative song – at least as it begins. Still rooted in modern pop rock, this is more balladic at first. The chorus is catchy and reminds me of The Rembrandts.
I Got Sunshine
Here’s a bit more rocking grind. Once more it’s not terribly original, but it is terribly catchy.
Are You Listening Now
Slower and more melancholy, this really oozes emotion. It’s pretty and powerful – all in a mellow track. It’s all about keeping connections with those who have passed on before us. In this case it’s a Father. 
It's Not the First Time
A lot more high energy this combines some hints of emo with ‘80’s sounds and modern sounds for another strong pop rocker. 
Sing Me to Sleep
Starting mellower, this grows into a pretty straightforward and standard, if especially potent cut. The little lullaby sound on this reminds me of the non-lyrical vocals on the opening number. 
Just Go
Here we get a pretty ballad. It’s basically just keyboards and voice, but there are some other elements more or less as icing on the cake. This is pretty and poignant and overall a nice track. 
Let My Heart Fall
This track probably stands up higher than anything else on the disc. It’s also in a keyboard oriented balladic fashion, but gets more involved and fully arranged than the one that came before it. I like this a lot. It’s one of the most complex pieces of music here. It’s also one that seems to have more emotion than the others. This isn’t far from progressive rock in many ways.
Everything I'll Be
An even mellower piano ballad, for my money the disc would have been better served had this been in an earlier spot. It gets powered up into a more rocking song, but the similar opening of the final three songs seems a bit redundant. It would have probably worked better breaking things up around track three or four. Besides, “Let My Heart Fall” is such a strong track that it really should have had the closing position.
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