June 15, 2011

Calm Paradox – How To Mind EP

Calm Paradox
How To Mind EP
Self-Released; 2011

Guest Contribtor: Jenn Broadwell

Maybe “Retrograde” is an expression of honesty. Is admitting to being a liar supposed to make us trust her? “Some lies we have to rehearse/ a pleasure to please and to serve”. This defines the small lies the singer likes to cook up to spare herself and others those harsh feelings, meanwhile assuring herself that doing such a thing is not wrong. I think she wants to relate to her audience. Especially because she also goes on about “inverted flaws” with the idea that we cannot be at fault for some of the things we might do or say.

The white liar behind the moniker Calm Paradox is Michelle Kennedy, a young woman who just happens to be a law student by day. She recently self-released her debut EP entitled How to Mind, and the result is that Kennedy has been compared to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, Regina Spektor, and Rilo Kiley, among others.

Often, her piano participates in lethargic obedience alongside its zealous musical relatives. But sometimes, it decides to rock out with the rest of the family. Similarly, Kennedy sounds sweet, until her vocal stands its ground against the chaos of overlapping narcissists. Plus, she demonstrates keen lyrical strength when she turns down an invitation to “Barcelona,” because she knows he doesn’t really want her there. Having the chance to convince him otherwise is not an idea that sounds interesting to her; yet her plan backfires when he decides to go alone without looking back.

I feel that songs like “Dystopia” and “Boots” pay direct resemblance to the apathetic energy and fearlessly direct approach of Rilo Kiley. Furthermore, “Boots” indulges in a subject that Rilo Kiley touched on in “Does He Love You” from the album More Adventurous. In these songs, both Kennedy and Jenny Lewis play the mistress. However, unlike Lewis who holds on to the bitter end despite her disloyal partner’s growing family, Kennedy recognizes the danger and foolishness early on. She reaches the point of anger before she gets hurt, which is more than I can say for Lewis. When she is done with him, she declares that he should “take of your promise ring; I think it expired”.

“Influenza Tiger” is reduced to a bit of a cappella for a brief verse. It imposes a grief-struck sensibility that is otherwise missing on the album — because again, she is better at anger than sadness. The piano waits until the second-to-last number to display its unencumbered talent in “Rites of Passage”.

The songs of the How To Mind EP are delightful, as I think Kennedy shines the most when she places emphasis on her pure vocal tone. On the other hand, her unmistakable rock advantage brings a rich edge into the overall mix. At 20 years old, the most important aspect of note in the music of Calm Paradox is the maturity present in the songwriting of Michelle Kennedy, especially in her ability to tackle uncomfortable issues with ease and confidence.

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