Shaunna Heckman: Spotlight
by Paul Whyte
Shaunna Heckman has been the shining star hanging just out of sight in the horizon for a number of years now. She has played shows in the area on top of dropping a few albums in the area. Heckman brings back thoughts of Tori Amos and Frou Frou. It’s an eclectic mix of songwriting, keys, and often some electronic backing music.
With this new EP “Spotlight,” it’s fair to say Heckman has continued her journey from albums like “Saturn Return,” a very powerful debut, to a more subtle and wise album, “Wanderess.”
Heckman keeps her cool with this somewhat playful, yet refined album. The first track “Spotlight” has the uptempo rhythms of a laid back reggae tune with plenty of catchy hooks in the chorus and clever programming with beats and mostly computer generated music by a longtime project mate, Danecdote. It’s really just a great song and it makes me happy to see Heckman keep doing music.
I’m going to break away for just a paragraph when I think about Danecdote. This is a guy that I’ve hung out with for years when we were hanging out in a party house in Superior when he showed me some of his beats. I have to admit they were alright, but not great. I think he was just getting into it over a decade ago and I deeply respect the stuff he comes up with now. Some years ago, Daniel Nelson aka Danecdote was put off that he wasn’t accepted into Homegrown. For those not in the know, it is a weeklong music festival that has been going on for the better part of two decades. It happens every year around the first weekend of May. His voice was heard and he has been at it for years, I like that he still is keeping at it with Heckman. What I’m getting at, is that I’ve seen a couple people be upset that they felt under-appreciated by Homegrown. There is nothing here but support and if you keep at it, people will listen. Even if you think there might not be people listening, often there are. Do what you’re going to do with pride and love.
To continue, this is only a four song EP so I’ll just go ahead and look at the sparkling spectacular track, “Says Who,” this time Dustin Kiel is the master of the backing tracks. I have to say I’m a big sucker for this kind of music. Among my favorites in this general genre is The Knife and iamamiwhoami, but this music certainly strikes a chord in me. The fade out at the end could have somehow been dealt with different, but a nice track overall.
The track “In the Sea” just continues this gorgeous yet dreamy album. I’m not sure who recorded this or how, but it’s fit to get thrown into the mix on some airplay. This does lead me to one thing that I’ve noted with Heckman. Saturn Return was her most powerful work and while “Wanderess” was good, it didn’t hit me as hard as that first album, but this album stands out mostly because of the backing layers of sounds, Heckman as always carries herself well vocally. The last track, “Winter’s Gone” does involve some great production, especially on the vocals, but I still have to look at Saturn Return as being the most prolific Heckman album. It tosses and turns in a way that cuts above a straight forward beat, no matter how clever it is sequenced. Ultimately, it falls back on Heckman to reach into herself as a songwriter to go from these very great, acceptable, lovely songs, and then go to something that really goes into something just undeniably with edge and imagination. She doesn’t need to get as weird as Bjork, but add in something not quite as sterile, and she might have something.