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Sarah Marie Young - 'Little Candy Heart'

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

I met Sarah Marie Young when we were both students at Columbia College Chicago, and she was already pretty awesome. Over the last few years, she hasn't shown any signs of slowing down as she's gone on to win the 2011 Shure Montreux Vocal Competition and played some of my favorite venues here in Chicago, such as the Chicago Jazz Festival and Schuba's. With her new album Little Candy Heart coming out on Dutch label SnipRecords in October 2014, she continues her evolution and upward trajectory.

While her previous releases rollicked back and forth between jazz, R&B, and soul tracks, Young forged a cohesive and focused aesthetic that permeates this record. Her voice showing the way, she expertly picks through a collection of songs from her own pen and that of collaborator and pianist Stu Mindeman. With support from two other close companions and frequent bandmates, Bryan Doherty on bass and Neil Wehman on drums, Young calmly yet powerfully expresses many integral moments in her life.

She eases into her experiences by opening up the album with "Brighter Days", a bouncing optimistic cut punctuated by a thoughtful Mindeman keyboard solo. Following an epic sounding Stevie Wonder-style vocal line, the chorus of the title track has all the makings of a song that will get stuck in your head for days. The reprise of that song later on the record really showcases Young's flexible voice in the acapella sections. On "Be With You", Young is joined by her bandmates Leslie Beukelman and Allison Orobia from The Oh Yeahs, as the three vocalists push the energy on this track to finish out the album right. "Lo and Behold" is that jam you listen to while driving down Lake Shore Drive back towards Chicago.

Sarah Marie Young has covered a lot of ground in a short time, and this album reflects the various states and stages (both literal and figurative) she's been through in the last few years. The record really feels like a landing point in so many ways, and we can be assured that her next take off will be no less exciting. It's so rare to hear a vocalist who is so in control of her own music, sound, and aesthetic direction without stifling the creativity of those around her. Listeners will enjoy Little Candy Heart on repeat.

Alex Marianyi does electronic music sitting in his living room. You can follow him on Twitter or like his Facebook page.