Laurie Biagini “Sanctuary of Sound”
This is the fourth LP by Vancouver singer/songwriter Biagini, and I’m glad summer is finally here. Often referred to as a “One-Woman-Beach-Boys,” she also takes her cues from The Honeys and The Shangri-Las.
The title track has a Mamas and Papas feel, with its sparkling harmonies and catchy beat. Her songwriting has definitely improved as “Monkey Business” and “Rise Up” boast sophisticated melodies. Echoes of other 60′s sunshine pop bands can be felt in “Shades of Green” and “Springtime of My Mind.” The albums middle boasts the surfer style we are familiar with like “Gold Plated Girl” and “Run To The Sun.” If I nit-pick, I will say Laurie’s lead vocal has faded more into the mix, but overall this music is a bright summer treat.
LAURIE BIAGINI – ‘Sanctuary of Sound’ (CD)
How do I love thee, Laurie Biagini? Let me count the ways. One through fourteen ways! After falling hard for her ‘A Go Go Girl In a Modern World’ CD in 2011, Biagini had released album number after working diligently for 18 months in her home studio crafting more songs about the summer, the sun, the sand and any activity you might enjoy in the company of each. It might sound a lot like ‘Pet Sounds’ era Beach Boys at first blush, but Ms. B. doesn’t hesitate to shuffle the lyrical deck with tunes like “Monkey Business” www.youtube.com/watch?v=3USj2YADxaUand the eat-the-rich commentary of “Gold Plated Girl”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT5u1pAOOko.
She also incorporates plenty of psych-era Sunshine Pop with the title track, “Beautiful World” and “Castle of Sand” among others. Where this album differs from her previous efforts is in the improved production and especially her singing (though this listener would love to hear less Phil Spector reverb and more breathy Biagini up close in the mix). She also takes some progressive risks on tunes like “Springtime of My Mind”, “Autumn Years” and the Vinnie Zummo hauntingly beautiful co-write “Sunset”.
This is a hell of a production which pits Biagini against herself as writer, producer, engineer and star performer – she plays every instrument except some additional guitar added – in virtual time – by New York’s Zummo and Roma, Italy’s Fabrizio Serrecchia.
Good God, lady—where have you been hiding? Based on the first-listen wonder that is Sanctuary of Sound, Laurie Biagini won’t be flying under the radar for long. Remember that warm and fuzzy feeling you got the first time you heard the Velvet Underground, Mazzy Star, Camera Obscura, or the Dum Dum Girls? Get ready to live the magic all over again, right from the album’s reverb-drenched opening track, “Two of a Kind”. This is classic ’60s-vintage pop given a psycho-candy coating, the whole thing held together by Biagini’s winsome vocals and effortless understanding of what makes a lethal hook.
So, who cares if the kaleidoscopic “Autumn Years” borrows a little from the Siouxsie and the Banshees version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, or if “Monkey Business” skirts dangerously close to being too cute for its own good unless you’re an easily excited kid looking for something cooler than the Doodlebops?
Those aren’t even minor quibbles—more like needless nitpicking. Standing back and looking at the big, golden picture, Sanctuary of Sound is a serious runner for local revelation of the year. Biagini might have been hanging back in the shadows until now, but she’s just served notice that she’s ready for her coming-out party.
Laurie makes me laugh, and I say that with the utmost respect. She is one of the most unassuming and humble people I have ever “met” and also one of the most positive. I suppose she has moments when it comes to her music because it isn’t easy being a musician these days. The business was bad enough in the good old days, but now that you pretty much have to do everything yourself or accept the fates of the musical gods (which is inevitably a life of obscurity), it can wear you down fast. I’m sure she very occasionally wonders if this whole recording thing is worth it. Like I said, we all have our moments.
Laurie has carved out a niche few seem to want to fill these days— she is all “sunshine pop” (kind of a cross between bubble gum and pop), surf, girl groups. When I hear her music, I dream of beaches and Beach Boys and woodies (the cars, bonehead— get your mind out of the gutter) and bikinis (God, but I love bikinis!). Her music smells of AM radio, a world the young will ever know and I feel sorry for them.
Laurie bought a guitar and has been teaching herself how to play. Until recently, she was all about the keyboards, but when she got that guitar it must have felt like Christmas because she was all over social media with pictures and the trials of learning a new instrument. Like I tell everyone, I’m just glad it wasn’t a cat. I’m beginning to hate cats.
Listening to Sanctuary (to get to the album part of this), I can hear that Laurie has learned her lessons well. Her previous three are solid albums and I love them (especially on a nice drive to the Coast on a warm, sunny day), but Sanctuary stands above. The vocals are exceptional, especially the deep harmonies, and the recording and mastering are as good as I’ve heard. You know, the only thing missing is a sax. Put a sax solo here and there and this would be perfect. Ask Moondoggie. He knows.
A special DBAWIS commendation has to be awarded for Sunset, a stunning song co-written by Laurie and master guitarist Vinnie Zummo. Every time I hear it, it’s 1964 all over again.
~ Frank Gutch Jr.
Laurie Biagini “A Go-Go Girl in a Modern World”
The Vancouver singer is on her third album at this point, and once again she is a one woman version of The Honeys. Laurie stays retro here, with a clear 60′s Beach Boys influence, multi-tracked vocals and Phil Spector production values.
The songs are well composed, as standouts are the descriptive ”A Ride on the Train” and the surfin’ car tune, “My Little SUV” with just the right guitar by Richard Snow. She also gets some help from guitarist Fabrizio Serrecchia (from the Italian group Soundserif) on the faux-Bond theme “The Invisible Guy.” But for the most part Laurie’s vocals are center stage, and just when it starts to get monotonous, the best song emerges. “In The Eyes Of A Little Girl” is a thrilling mid-tempo look back at childhood co-written and performed with the brilliant Maxi Dunn. So if you want to return to those innocent days of AM radio pop, close your eyes and let Laurie take you back.
Laurie Biagini is another artist who has been very prolific recently, with her third album and the third that I’ve reviewed on this blog (first two are here and here.) A Go-Go Girl In A Modern World is a clear progression from the first two albums, with a clear step-up in variety and production quality.
However, as with all music, the most important thing is the songs. Laurie has consistently hearkened back to a more innocent time in her music, and this continues with a wider palate of styles- the rockin’ title track, the slightly psychedelic One Track Mind, the 60s classic sounding Chameleon Man topped out with a brilliant instrumental break, and the chugging car song, My Little SUV. There are two interesting collaborations -Californian go-go girl Elaine McAfee Bender provided lyrics on The California Quake and there is an outstanding co-write with the brilliant Maxi Dunn on In The Eyes Of A Little Girl.
The highlight for me is An Innocent Love, in my view Laurie’s best song, that really taps into that combination of lyric, melody and mood that elevates one to a higher plane. All Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fans should be supporting Laurie; you can get the album at CD Baby as well as many other places.
~ Andrew Gladwin
Each new Laurie Biagini release is met with Christmas Day anticipation. Especially if you like Christmas on the sun-soaked, sand-filled beaches of Santa Monica in July. Her last album, ‘A Far Out Place’, married the groovy harmony and musical stylings of The Beach Boys and other California surf artists from a female perspective. ‘Go Go Girl in a Modern World’ takes the next leap with a broader range of 1960s authentic sounding AM power pop.
Taken at face value it seems a rather odd musical marriage coming from an exotic Italian musician from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. But when you hear the craftsmanship in the songs, you’d swear Biagini grew up on Venice Beach and spends her days, the breeze whipping through her hair, riding the Pacific Coast Highway in her car. In fact, the song “My Little SUV” gives us a modern re-tooling of classic car songs like “Little GTO” and “Little Honda”. You just want to ride along as she throws her cares to the wind.
The title track, “Go Go Girl in a Modern World”, is self-referential in that Biagini knows she’s out of step with current musical trends. Nowhere else are you going to find tips of the hat to The Ad Libs’ and the Mamas & Papas in one song – “I Ride on the Train” successfully melds the groove of “Boy From New York City” with M & P’s “Creeque Alley”. She also tips her hat to both Mamas & Papas and Lovin’ Spoonful on the baroque shuffle of “Summertime”.
Biagini has a sweet pure pop vocal delivery somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Susan Jacks which fits effortlessly with the early-60’s Spectorish girl group motifs on “An Innocent Love” and “In the
Eyes of a Little Girl” (co-written with Liverpudlian songstress Maxi Dunn); late ‘60s Seekers/Poppy Family sunshine pop on “The Heart of the Song”, “Chameleon Man” and “No Other Like You”; and even the Pacific Northwest psyche-garage sounds of “Head In the Sand”.
Clincher track on the CD is the Johnny Rivers-meets-James Bond “Invisible Guy” which finds equal parts surf guitar riff married to Herb Alpert brass lines. It’s catchy as hell and should be put to good use as the soundtrack to any number of ‘spy’ related television or movies projects. I’d suggest ‘Chuck’ for starters.
Aside from the strength of her songwriting pastiches and vocal talents, Biagini is the master of every organic instrument on the album: keyboards, electric guitar, and percussion. Cleverly, she taps many of her music friends (Maxi Dunn, Peter Hackett, Fabrizio Serrechia and Richard Snow Hattersley) – using digital technology to fly the tracks around the world – and has them contribute via virtual recording techniques; Proving that you can capture the magic of a bygone era without compromising the spirit of it in a digital setting. I’d say they don’t make albums like this anymore, but Biagini does.