Check out the reviews of “Artifacts” here!
1. Vents Magazine (CD Review)
By Lydia Hillenburg
Artifacts is the first album from Andriana Lehr since her 2013 debut Try to Be True and the intervening three years has seen this extraordinarily talented singer and songwriter become one of brightest talents burning in the musical firmament today. She definitely occupies a space in the singer/songwriter genre, but her musical skills are far more broad-based than simply an acoustic guitar, some backing vocals, and light instrumentation. She reaches into a variety of styles over the course of Artifacts’ ten songs including blues, pop balladry, and country music. Her lyrical content is across the board superb. Lehr writes candidly and imaginatively about her experiences while also transforming them into something universal rather miring them in autobiographical obscurity. She has vocal talent that’s every bit the equal of her superb vocals.
It surfaces immediately on the opener. “Outrun the Changes” is a little bit about the dramatic shifts that happen in young adult life, the feeling of leaving childhood behind once and for all, but it really has widespread relevance and that’s one of the greatest parts of its art. Lehr has mastered the talent for making the personal universal and the fine backing she gets perfectly complements the lyric and vocal content. “Ready To Be” sort of emerges into being before settling into a slightly jazzed up country groove. This is a song about self-realization in its many forms and elicits a vocal gem from Lehr. The contribution of string instruments, particularly violin, gives the song a lightly orchestrated quality that makes it all the more appealing. The third song “Ashes in the Fog” is sonically reminiscent of the opener without ever imitating it. There’s a firmer, more discernible structure at work than the earlier song and the solid acoustic rhythm guitar gives it a sturdy spine.
“Catch 22” has some particularly interesting instrumental breaks later in the song and the shuffle styled arrangement it takes on keeps things breathlessly cooking for much of the song. Lehr’s vocal does a great job of giving the lyric a little added bite despite the upbeat tempo. The music takes a surprising turn on “Halfway Home”. This is pure musical theater with Lehr’s dynamic voice and tastefully lyrical piano playing at the center of it all creating a haunted, dreamlike atmosphere. The words are as strong as ever, but they do get lost a little bit more than some might like thanks to the ghostly treatment in the arrangement. Ken Wilson’s precise, yet soulful, dobro playing makes its presence felt for a final time on the song “Since You’ve Been Gone” and complements the shuffle tempo quite well. This song adheres a little more to expected formulas than the earlier tracks, but that doesn’t weaken its impact. Artifacts concludes with the acoustic strains of “The Expansion of Everything”, a gloriously complete encapsulation of the album’s themes with some added concerns that further expands Lehr’s songwriting reach. Her beautifully crystalline vocals are the crowning touch that helps make this a perfect ending for her best album yet. It’s onward and upward from here for this impressive young talent.
2. Gashouse Radio
By Shannon Cowden
Andriana Lehr is much more than just a pretty face. This young singer and songwriter made a considerable splash in the indie world with the release of her 2013 debut album Try to Be True and her follow up, Artifacts, picks up the mantle of excellence from that release and expands on its possibilities. It’s a ten song collection that shows off a number of influences – Joni Mitchell, Brandi Carlisle, and Conor Oberst are among some of the discernible strains in her presentation, but she has her own voice that cuts through those influences and speaks with the authority of her personal experiences and emotions in a highly artful way. The production, handled by Owen Sartori and Davide Raso, does a superb job of capturing the countless details that Lehr imbues her songwriting with. Strings, brass, and instruments like pedal steel guitar and dobro are scattered over the track list and are all used to supreme effect.
“Outrun the Changes” begins the album quite well. It is a very evocative musical piece that Lehr patiently develops musically and vocally. The vocal melody, in particular, is excellent and provides a sharp hook for bringing listeners into the song. The subject matter doesn’t till any new ground, but it’s handled so well that it will resonate with a wide swath of Lehr’s audience, young and old alike. “Ashes in the Fog” sounds mired in a fog, but not in a negative way. The atmospherics reach a new height here but they are anchored by some interesting instrumental choices – namely the cello and dobro that fill the song with great musical moments. The lyrical material is some of Lehr’s most poetic on the album and never ornamental. David Goodstein’s drumming is another exceptional component in this song and never overreaches in setting a tone for the performance.
Steve Goold’s drumming turns “Catch 22”’s shuffle into an intense, low-key musical workout. The pedal steel offers up a ghostly touch in this song and Lehr’s understated singing neatly dovetails into the instrumentation. Lehr demonstrates real songwriting talent by taking a hoary cliché and revitalizing it with her creativity. The lead guitar and tenor sax on the song “Bright Yellow Lights” help give it a great theatrical sense without ever seeming self-indulgent. Lehr’s haunted vocal is quite thoughtful and provides an excellent counterpoint to the unusual playing. A string quartet makes its presence felt for the second time on the album during the song “Halfway Home” and helps create an intensely felt, highly artistic picture for the listener. The melancholy at work here is tangible, but it never feels put on.
“Streets of Saint Paul” is one of the album’s finest tracks thanks to its immediacy and its marvelous construction. The movement in the song from it being a solely acoustic piece is orchestrated quite well – when David Goodstein’s drumming comes in; it hits all of the right marks, and other instruments like Cory Grossman’s cello make it even better. Andriana Lehr’s Artifacts is a fantastic musical work that ends just as strongly as it begins.
8 out of 10 stars.
3. Skope Magazine
By Jason Hillenburg
South Dakota native Andriana Lehr moves the goalposts with her second album Artifacts. Influenced by songwriters as diverse as Brandi Carlisle and Conor Oberst, the ten songs on her sophomore release represent a significant leap forward in her skills as a singer, composer, and lyricist while retaining the spark of inspiration lighting up her debut. She has lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for the last ten years and has lodged numerous appearances at venues of every manner in the surrounding area. The collection receives fantastic production and the songs are all focused efforts that are never at risk of self-indulgence or sentimentality and Lehr assembles a stellar cast of supporting musicians to help realize her artistic vision. Artifacts is everything we should hope for and more from modern songwriters and establishes Lehr as a formative talent aiming and likely destined for posterity.
“Outrun the Change” is a darkly simmering gem. There are ghostly streaks of effects laden guitar sliding and chiming through the mix while Lehr’s cascading range flows upward with each abbreviated line. The vocals are multi-tracked at key dramatic points and she brings equal parts emotion and technical expertise to the fine lyrics. Some of the same windswept atmosphere washes over the pensive “Ashes in the Fog”. The slide guitar here is much cleaner than we heard in the opener and Lehr refrains from engaging in the same vocal pyrotechnics distinguishing the first track. “Catch 22” has a much brisker pace in comparison, an understated shuffle, and minimal instrumentation lain over top. Lehr’s songs achieve their musical effects via accumulation – fills color in the frame for a chosen song over its duration until the song has emerged in full for listeners. “Bright Yellow Lights” has a much more theatrical air than any of the previous songs. It’s spiked with brief horn flourishes and more effects drenched guitar, but nothing is ever spread out with a trowel line. Lehr and her collaborators, instead, show the same tastefulness here that’s distinguished earlier songs. The languid and highly evocative pace of the song makes it a highlight as well.
“Putting Up A Fight” is another great lyric married to some eloquent and accessible piano playing. There’s light orchestration influencing the song as well, but the prime factors in this song’s success or failure is how well the musical and vocal elements come together. The album’s penultimate track “Streets of Saint Paul” has more of that same emotional directness and certainly sounds ripped from the autobiography of Lehr’s life. The steady and stripped back drumming is a nice complement to the straight forward acoustic guitar playing. Lehr ends Artifacts with “The Expansion of Everything”. It’s similar in some respects to both “Putting Up a Fight” and the previously mentioned “Streets of Saint Paul” as it will strike listeners as a very personal and highly melodic. The exquisite sensitivity shown in the arrangement leans more to Lehr’s folky roots, but it’s a wonderful finale. The ten songs on Artifacts will please a large cross-section of singer songwriter fans and win Andriana Lehr countless new converts.
8 out of 10 stars
4. Carlito’s Music Blog
By Dale Butcher
Second albums are, traditionally, a steep hump for many performers to get over. If they’ve experienced significant critical success, like Andriana Lehr did with her 2013 debut Try to Be True, the urge to follow the lead of that first album with the sophomore effort is a powerful lure. It is, however, a dead end. Entertainers want to entertain. Artists, however, who write and perform from a much deeper need soon realize that successful artistic runs are not built on the backs of repetition. Instead, the challenge is to grow, branch out, and evolve without losing the initial spirit that fired your career and passion. Andriana Lehr fills this mission out quite handily with her second album Artifacts. It’s a well crafted and deeply felt sophomore release that finds her musical adventurousness at a higher level than ever before, but it shows a command of technique that outstrips even her fine first release.
“Outrun the Change” gives us a clear idea of where her head space is with these songs. Undoubtedly, the numerous years that have passed since Lehr left her South Dakota farm for the bright lights and boundless promise of the big city, in this case the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metroplex, have provided her with numerous examples of how our connections in life change and fall away no matter how much we might value them. The vocal melody here is simply gorgeous and brings the lyrics to listeners in a very attention grabbing fashion. There’s an urgency here that’s quite appealing. Other songs find this urgency as well, albeit in different ways. “Ready to Be” has an understated, just below the surface level stream of frustration and regret about the challenges of establishing one’s individuality in a culture that seems to undercut it and honest communication at every turn, but the message likewise stresses the necessity of our efforts if we want to experience self-realization. “Ashes in the Fog” is a much more muted affair both musically and lyrical with a poetic veneer that many will enjoy. Ken Wilson’s pedal steel guitar is a wonderful addition to this track and takes it in the direction of pure classic country without ever confining itself to genre.
“Bright Yellow Lights” is another impressive stylistic turn. In this song, Lehr makes great use of tenor sax to bring another unusual instrumental voice into what most will likely hear as an Americana performer. The reverb effects on the lead guitar work also provide another semi-unusual sonic element. There’s a lot of pain and thoughtfulness laced through this particular track and much of that bubbles to the surface thanks to these imaginative choices and her fine vocal. “Halfway Home” takes the album a little into neo-classical territory with its use of a string quartet and Lehr’s piano playing, but it’s a very theatrical piece that still keeps a strong connection to simplicity and certainly has atmosphere to burn. The album’s second to last song, “Streets of Saint Paul”, has some of the same hints of classical flavor bleeding in around the edges, but this is much more of a straight-autobiographical track that Lehr wisely chooses to keep as uncluttered as possible. Artifacts is one of the most well thought out releases coming from the singer/songwriter genre in recent memory and promises much for Lehr’s future.
9 out of 10 stars
5. Valhalla Music Blog
By David Shouse
The sophomore full length album from Andriana Lehr, Artifacts, is the successor to her well-received 2013 debut Try to Be True. In the intervening three years since the release of her first album, Lehr has established herself as one of the most promising musical talents in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul music scene and her countless hours spent gigging and surrounded by other top flight musicians has exerted a noticeable effect over her performances and songwriting alike. The debut proved that this was a prodigious talent in the making; Artifacts, however, takes that a step further by hinting at the possibility that Lehr might be one of the brightest musical lights of her generation and capable of picking up the torch from her influences like Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlisle. The ten song collection was recorded and produced in the Minneapolis area, but there isn’t a single particle of regionalism on this album. Instead, this is a top flight professional product on every level and, as a result, a living breathing work of art.
It solidifies such claims with the first song. “Outrun the Change” has one of the album’s best vocal melodies, lively and buoyant, and the moody backing provides a compelling counterpoint to her singing. Steve Goold and David Goodstein distinguish themselves throughout this release thanks to their intensely sympathetic drumming, but it’s Goold’s jazzy touches that stand out most here and give the song a percolating feel. Goodstein’s playing takes a much more straight ahead approach on tracks like “Ashes in the Fog”, a track that nominally recalls the opener in certain respects, but has a much more elegiac, restrained melody in comparison. The pairing of Ken Wilson’s dobro and Cory Grossman’s cello on the song sets it apart just a little more and works marvelously. Goold’s jazzy percussion returns on the song “Catch 22”, but that little extra step he gives to the rhythm isn’t enough to entirely divorce the song from its roots in country music. The brisk pace doesn’t curtail Lehr’s ability to deliver the lyrics in any way.
“Halfway Home” takes the surprising classical overtones heard on earlier songs and expands on them without ever getting too far away from the singer/songwriter beating throughout the track list. Lehr’s aching vocals are never rushed and the great care she takes with her phrasing makes this song all the more memorable. “Putting Up A Fight” is the album’s only outright recognizable ballad, but it isn’t a time for Lehr to lay on the schmaltz and make some ill-advised attempt for commercial attention. Instead, this is a beautifully ornate piece that still has a lot of color and never feels overly plotted out. “Streets of Saint Paul” has a folk singer’s heart, but there’s some of those aforementioned country and classical music influenced sounds seeping through a deceptively simple musical attack. The album’s final, “The Expansion of Everything”, continues along those lines with a patient and well-rounded closer that makes some attempt at examining what’s come before while still saying something new. Much of Artifacts is engrossed in looking at the transitions we all experience in life with a generosity of spirit and, certainly, a fair amount of regret. It is notable, however, that she concludes her collection with a song that uses the word expansion in its title – Lehr’s creative vision has certainly expanded and few singer/songwriters have such a bright future in front of them.
9 out of 10 stars
6. Razorfish Reviews
By William Elgin
Andriana Lehr is a special talent who won’t remain a fixture of the indie scene for long if she keeps writing and recording albums this good. Artifacts, the ten song follow up to 2013’s Try to Be True, finds her moving the parameters of her sound out further than she did on even her admittedly fine debut while still maintaining a strong connection to her influences and simplicity of presentation. The album is built around her vocals and lyrics – two excellent cornerstones for the vivid creative magic that rises up all around it. Unlike many performers of her age and ilk, Lehr’s songs sound lived in rather than fabrications of experiences and lives she’s never known. It seems, perhaps, unlikely that a South Dakota farm girl would be able to cover the vast gamut of experiences depicted on this album, but Andriana Lehr isn’t the typical farm girl. She’s spent the last ten years living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and tackles each of these ten songs with unimpeachable credibility.
The opener promises much and the remaining nine songs deliver on that promise. “Outrun the Change” is a song that holds truths as old as human experience. This isn’t just empty style that she uses to get this over; there are countless personal truths evident in the lyric and it is wonderfully framed by a very evocative vocal melody. Much of this same spark continues on the album’s second track, “Ready to Be”, a song who’s primary theme is identity. The pedal steel and string quartet on this song might seem a little incongruous, but she actually brings them together artfully and quite effectively. The vocal melody isn’t quite as hook-y as the first track, but it serves the song well. “Ashes in the Fog” recalls the opener musically, but it has a much more dreamlike, poetic focus than the comparatively structured opening song. The tenor saxophone in “Bright Yellow Lights” gives this song a bluesy, lonely edge that no other track on Artifacts approximates. J.P Delaire’s playing never tries dominating the song and, instead, provides a highly musical counterpoint to Lehr’s beautiful vocal.
“Halfway House” is similar in musical tone to the preceding track. The string quartet returns here and gives the track a strongly quasi-classical feel that Lehr caresses to life with her vocal and piano playing. Dobro and piano return for a final time on the album with the track “Since You’ve Been Gone”, but this is also one of the few tracks on the album that seems to have a premeditated commercial air. Such moves in Lehr’s hands, however, never seem to pander – instead, it just makes an already accessible song a little more so. The cello and acoustic guitar on the penultimate song “Streets of Saint Paul” come together with a surprising seamlessness and it makes for one of the finest songs on Artifacts. The final song on the album “The Expansion of Everything” stands out thanks to its cello and pedal steel, but the lyrical content and her vocal are the undoubted highlights of the song thanks to its eloquent summation of a number of themes from the album. Andriana Lehr is building the sort of career that’s strong enough to last decades and multiple albums and Artifacts will prove to be one of its cornerstones.
9 out of 10 stars
By Lance Wright
South Dakota born singer/songwriter Andriana Lehr’s first album, Try to Be True, was a superlative debut, but her second release Artifacts builds on that considerable promise with one stunning performance after another on this ten track effort. Lehr ascends to another level thanks to songwriting expertise far beyond her years and a great ear for coupling the right arrangements to her lyrical content. Her voice is amazingly versatile – she’s equally capable with the ballad material as she is the rougher hewn songs. There are a myriad of influences at work on Artifacts – singer/songwriter, pop, blues, folk, all blend together in a vibrant musical stew, but the heart of the performance comes from her vocals. She soars, shows great sensitivity, and emotes with the authenticity of a performer who has lived the experiences depicted in her songs.
The cascading vocal lines of “Outrun the Change” are one of the highlights, but drumming from both Steve Goold and David Goodstein set an authoritative tone for the song from the outset. The lyrical themes of an evolving life are poetically rendered, but they remain accessible throughout. The brisk percussion from Steve Goold sets a great bedrock pace for “Ready to Be”, a lyrically similar tune to the opener. Ken Wilson’s contributions on pedal steel guitar are, likewise, quite notable and make this a memorable performance. Her vocals don’t show off their talents nearly as much on this song as they did during the opener, but it’s still a great performance. Wilson’s dobro playing on “Ashes in the Fog” gives the song a tenor reminiscent of the album’s first track, but this is a little more direct than “Outrun the Change”. The song, likewise, gives her a forum to deliver some of the finest lyrics on the album, words that are full of real, living poetry.
J.P. Delaire’s tenor saxophone on “Bright Yellow Lights” adds considerable soul to this track, but it’s the languid pacing weaving atmosphere that highlights the song. It’s a very theatrical, bluesy outing, but there’s nothing excessively premeditated about the piece. “Halfway Home” has a similar feel. It’s a very patiently constructed, beautifully wrought track that focuses a lot on establishing a feel for the listeners to hook themselves into, but it never sounds labored or too studied. It is, likewise, one of the album’s finest lyrics that Lehr sings with conviction and matchless skill. Her piano playing and lyrics on “Putting Up A Fight” are a winning tandem for the album’s best ballad, but her vocal pushes everything over the top into true grandeur. It’s never heavy handed and moves slowly, but every second is worth it. “Streets of Saint Paul” is, perhaps, the most personal song on Artifacts. The acoustic guitar opening the song is soon joined by well placed drumming that never rushes the track. Instead, everything here, as elsewhere, develops at just the right pace. Artifacts is a lovely record from beginning to end with few lulls and Lehr mixes a lot of vitality into her approach. She is an amazing singer and first class songwriter.
9 out of 10 stars
8. Indie Music Reviews
By Joshua Stryde
The sophomore album from singer/songwriter Andriana Lehr represents the full flowering of talent evident on her debut, 2013’s Try to Be True. The new album Artifacts spends a lot of time trying to strike the right musical mood, invariably succeeding, but there’s far more to this ten song collection than theatricality and style. Lehr’s choices show her to be a genuine artist of growing powers who fearlessly incorporates a wide variety of sounds and instruments into her work. There are few artists with the audacity to marry dobro with classical instruments, but not only does Lehr do this, but she has the ample talent to pull it off. Much of this, to be sure, is the result of surrounding herself with a cadre of top flight musicians who can aid her in realizing this musical vision and production support that is top class down the line.
One of her avowed influences, Joni Mitchell, comes through in her vocal delivery with amazing clarity. Few songs on Artifacts are a better example of this than the opener “Outrun the Change”. The song seems to coalesce into being much more than emerging from the speakers in the standard way and, once it establishes itself, spends a lot of its musical capital on creating atmosphere. Drummer Steve Goold, one of two outstanding percussionists Lehr uses on this album, contributes much, but the unquestionable star of the show here is Lehr and her lyrics. The vocal melody underlines the writing quality with the varying tempo of her delivery. “Ready To Be” has some outstanding jazzy drumming from Goold along with contributions on pedal steel guitar from Ken Wilson. Laurels String Quartet makes an appearance on this song; it’s our first real evidence on Artifacts that Lehr is playing by a very different set of rules than many young songwriters and has the wherewithal to make it work.
Goold’s drummer adopts a similar approach on the track “Catch 22”. This is much more of a traditional country track than many of the other songs on Artifacts and its busy shuffle is obviously well written and tightly rehearsed. Ken Wilson’s pedal steel laces through the song and gives it another melodic voice in the mix. The vocal melody here is much more underplayed in comparison to the earlier tracks, but Lehr still shines through. Laurels String Quartet returns on the song “Halfway Home”, a slowly evolving and mournful introspective song that gives Lehr a platform for her best vocal performance on Artifacts. Her ability to inhabit the mix without ever exerting a lot of vocal muscle, but it isn’t just empty style. Instead, listening to her phrasing and how completely locked in it is with the song – this is a vocalist capable of bringing the fullness of her talent to bear on anything she touches.
The string quartet makes its final appearance on the album with the song “Putting Up a Fight”. Lehr’s piano playing pops up a couple of times on Artifacts and this song marks its final appearance. It never goes in for musical pyrotechnics and, instead, ably supports her singing. It’s one of the most spartan track, musically, on the album but that doesn’t mean it takes shortcuts. The last song on Artifacts, “The Expansion of Everything”, is equally stripped back in some respects, but Cory Grossman’s contributions on cello are key to the track’s success. The song is a great closer because it neatly sums up many of the themes explored in earlier songs with a tighter lens than those fine tracks manage. Artifacts is the second, all important step in a career that Lehr is clearly building with an eye towards posterity.
9 out of 10 stars
9. Band Blurb
By Scott Wigley
Andriana Lehr’s journey from a South Dakota farm to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area has been propelled by musical, vocal, and writing talent that’s virtually unparalleled by anyone in her generation. She has the sort of transformative voice that could elevate mundane lyrics to the level of performed poetry, entwine itself around relatively non-descript arrangements and make them sound iconic, while still conveying a wealth of personality and emotion. Fortunately, for Lehr’s listeners, the lyrics on her second album are never mundane while the arrangements are rich with musical inventiveness and fearlessness. This ten song collection represents Lehr’s fullest realization yet of her considerable talent. It also remains accessible to a wide cross-section of possible listeners and has the style and sophistication of a much older, more seasoned performer. This is certainly reflective of the time and live appearances Lehr has logged in venues throughout the Minnesota area; her growth has been exponential and will likely continue to be so on future releases.
Artifacts, however, is our focus here. It opens with a great track, “Outrun the Change”. The song is full of restrained, introspective atmosphere from the opening strains and it never pulls back from that. Lehr’s writing, however, gets a sympathetic treatment from her collaborators and the result is that the atmosphere never sounds labored or overwrought. “Ashes in the Fog” sounds very similar to the opener, in some respects, but the lyrical material has a much more poetic slant than the opener. Despite the added intricacy of language and symbols, it remains a direct composition that doesn’t shoot over the listener’s heads with pretension and straining for effect. The fleet footed shuffle of “Catch 22” is probably the most unambiguous nod to a particular genre on Artifacts and its solidly classic country sound gets an appropriately soulful vocal from Lehr. “Bright Yellow Lights”, however, culls from a variety of genres to achieve its final form and ranks among the best tracks on this album thanks to its imaginative synthesis.
“Halfway Home”, however, takes the culling heard in the aforementioned track to a new level. Its neoclassical overtones match up quite well with the dependable structure she adopts for the song, but it’s the sensitivity of her vocal and the fine words she writes for this composition that ultimately set it apart from the remainder of the album. Some of those neoclassical tones return, in muted fashion, on the song “Putting Up a Fight”, and they sound much more expected in a piano-driven ballad. Nonetheless, Lehr’s willingness to bring an assortment of instruments to bear on what might normally be classified as an album in the Americana tradition marks her as a different breed of cat when compared to many of her less adventurous contemporaries. “Since You’ve Been Gone” is a little weaker than the other songs for some unexpected reasons – this feels a little more formulaic than what we’ve grown accustomed to and follows a cataloging style for its lyrics that feels like she’s coasting a little. The album’s second to last track, however, brings us back to the same bravery that has distinguished much of Artifacts. “Streets of Saint Paul” is, lyrically, undoubtedly torn from the pages of Lehr’s life, but it’s a musical adventure that finds her bringing her folk singer tendencies into perfect alignment with an ever growing musical imagination. Artifacts is one of the year’s most challenging releases, but it’s never experimental and the ability of listeners to connect with the material is unfettered by her attempts to broaden and stretch her approach.
8 out of 10 stars
10. Indie Mindy Music Blog
By Montey Zike
Andriana Lehr might originally hail from a small farm in South Dakota, but there’s nothing small town about her songwriting or musical talents. Her latest release Artifacts builds on the promise she exhibited on her 2013 debut Try to Be True while still showing every bit of the influences that have shaped her into the performer she is today. Her decade spent in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, a traditional hotbed for talented singers and songwriters, has honed her potential to a sharp edge and she has both the sound judgment and technique to increasingly realize her artistic ideas. The ten songs on Artifacts never content themselves with a single pose or line of musical adventure. Instead, she fearlessly incorporates unexpected instruments into her template and sets them against unlikely instrumental counterparts. Classical meets country, folk gets a light R&B tinge, and her ear for inventive vocal melodies seems to be unerring.
“Outrun the Change” puts listeners on notice that a lot has changed and more is in the offing. In some ways, this is a song that covers no new territory – plenty of young artists have written about the accompanying shifts that come with growing older and leaving childhood behind. What separates Lehr from her peers on this track and others is the melancholy she invests this with, but the deeper understanding as well. Her aims are deceptively modest. By merely communicating the realities of her life and inner weather, she seemingly makes music for herself alone, but by communicating these things so directly, the song achieves an universality that reaches far beyond the borders of the autobiographical. This applies to many of the songs on Artifacts.
“Ready To Be”, the album’s second track, is similar in intent, but it takes a little bit wider of a view lyrically. The quasi-shuffle of Steve Goold’s drumming gives Lehr a great rhythmic base to sing over and she takes full advantage of it. The languid unraveling of “Ashes in the Fog” is about, in some respects, finding clarity in a life and world where things aren’t always clear or present themselves as they. How do you deal with that, how do you move on? Lehr finds no real answers, but perhaps those answers are here for listeners to discover and remain unspoken. Ken Wilson’s evocative, haunting dobro playing gives the song a second “vocal” that neatly complements Lehr’s own. The tenor sax making an appearance on “Bright Yellow Lights” gives this track a smoky, late night quality that it might otherwise lack and the reverb-soaked guitar work further accentuates that. Though Lehr brings a bevy of talented collaborators to work with her on this album, none of the tracks are a showcase of their virtuosic skills and, instead, musicians like saxophonist J.P. Delaire and guitarist Bryan Ewald are much more concerned with serving the song.
“The Expansion of Everything” ends the album on the same daring note that has characterized so much of it. Pedal steel and cell co-exist easily together with Lehr’s folkie acoustic guitar and she delivers another stunning vocal that puts a bright spotlight on her exquisite phrasing. Artifacts is the sort of album that all around music fans will enjoy and continue returning to for some time – it isn’t reined in by silly labels or an unwillingness to take chances.
9 out of 10 stars
In with the album that was sent documentation and information the album “Artifacts” by American singer and songwriter Andriana Lehr is defined as a summary of the confusion, uncertainty and the evolution that is involved in the search for oneself, self-analysis and the search for a meaning to life, slowly but surely leading to the moment when we finally found its place in this world.
It all seems free heavy costs to be in the songs on this new album of folk, Americana and alt.country songs singing lady from Saint Paul, Minnesota, but that is not entirely true, because between the ten self-composed songs for “Artifacts” sit there with opener “Outrun the Change” and alt.countryrocker “Ready to be” surely some solid rocking tracks that radiate the necessary dose of optimism.
Most of the songs, however, consists of quieter ballads as in the poetic “Ashes In The Fog,” “Catch-22”, “Bright Yellow Lights” (see live version on video), piano ballad “Putting Up A Fight”, the sensitive “Since You’ve Been Gone” and the nostalgic “Streets of Saint Paul” the city where she spent most of her life.
Andriana Lehr says she in choosing her musical direction was strongly influenced by the music they already heard as a child, songs from her female examples Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch and Brandi Carlile, besides the charismatic ‘Bright Eyes’ frontman Conor Oberst.
Her debut album “Try To Be True” in 2013 was good for a first acquaintance with this talented singer and songwriter, but with the clever arranged songs on the second CD “Artifacts” we get a final confirmation of its musical qualities.
12. The Alternate Root
Open country is in the vocals of Andriana Lehr. Her voice carries across the landscape of Artifacts, her second release, like wind on the prairie. After spending time in the songwriter scene of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Andriana Lehr still carries the freedom of the farmland of her youth. Artifacts sifts through “Ashes in the Fog” watching empires and leaders fall, walks down “Streets of St. Paul” shedding sorrows in hushed strums, batters a beat on piano notes for Putting Up a Fight”, and ambles on fractured notes and rhythms to say goodbye in “Bright Yellow Lights”. A South Dakota upbringing backs the words of Andriana Lehr with the solidarity of a small town as she ‘feels like I am the only one’ picking out constellations in “Outrun the Change” while Artifacts finds itself “Halfway Home” as memory disappears with the swell of orchestrated strings, hurried snare hits rush the rhythm of “Ready to Be”, and “Catch-22” barrels along on freight train beats and ghostly pedal steel twang.