Karrie Hopper – An Unusual Move

Karrie Hopper
An Unusual Move

Imagine you are sitting in a small theater in some unknown town. It feels old, the seats are plush and you are just arms length away from the stage. The lights dim – you can’t tell how many people are in the house and it’s quite possible that you are the only one there. The curtains rise to reveal a nearly empty stage. Then footsteps ring out across the room as a girl walks out onto the stage and sits down with her legs dangling over the edge. She has only a guitar with her. She takes a slight breath and begins to strum.

The intimacy of Karrie Hopper’s debut album is much different than most. There are those that conjure up images of an informal setting like sitting around in someone’s basement rec room on old couches just playing around till the wee hours of the morning and there are others that have the feel of one of those small bars unknown to all but the ones who know where to look. But the difference here is that unlike the artists that play more in a manner of bringing you into their world through voice and music, Hopper chooses more of a story-telling approach. It’s a story that is close to her and she wishes to share it in a personal way but no matter how intimate it may seem, you are still the audience.

The lines “And I went to war / to prove to myself I was ready to live” open the story as if midway. Her child-like voice adds to the timeless quality of the simple acoustic accompaniment. With little changes in each vocal or musical arrangement, the focus is on the story rather than unnecessary embellishments. In “Twilight Song” her voice seems to sound even younger and shakier than normal and even has a few moments where it almost falls out of tune. But somehow it’s endearing rather than annoying. She is accompanied by a violin that adds a note of sadness to the song and fits well with her small voice.

By the time “Tuesday” rolls around as the third track on the album, her voice has already begun to get a little bit grating. It’s unusual young quality makes in not only interesting but also difficult to listen to when the range is so limited. There are examples throughout the album where other instruments or even other voices can bring out interesting qualities and help to add some variety to her sound but when there is only Hopper over an acoustic guitar strum, it becomes difficult to listen to for too long. With such a distinct voice, it needs to be mixed up enough to hold the attention of the listener.

In “Beyond The Wild” there is a small piano intro and background noises that sound as though Hopper is sitting in the middle of the woods with birds singing in the trees and bugs whizzing by. This small addition helps to give the song some depth and a change in the scenery even though her tone remains the same along with the general pace of the song. It doesn’t take much, especially in “Prayer Before Nightmare”, where it’s back to her voice over an acoustic guitar but the mood is darker and in the last 30 seconds a few simple piano notes blend into the guitar for what I believe is the best 30 seconds of the album. Her voice and the deep, moody sound blend perfectly together.

Another fine point on the album is the duet with her and a male voice in “Ten Years From Now”. The vocals accompanying hers are breathy and low and even her own voice sounds slightly different, more confident and even a little raspier. At times, in other points on the album she sounds lost and perhaps this extra support helps her to feel more confident in her own voice. She returns to her own shaky self in the songs that follow the simple duet except in “Racing” which opens with multiple voices humming in a soothing manner. Although, as pleasant as the opener is, once Hopper’s voice enters, those comforting sounds are soon forgotten. It’s unfortunate that the layers of humming weren’t woven throughout the rest of the song. And then in “Inspiration City” Hopper performs a duet with another female voice, which may or may not be herself, it’s difficult to tell. This is both a very nice addition to hear at some points and yet jarring during the points where the two voices don’t hit the same key. But done with a little more passion and perhaps a better fitting key, a duet could be quite powerful.

In “Take My Life” Hopper delivers lines like “And it shows in both of our eyes / the way we work inside” that remind the listener that the story is the heart of An Unusual Move. Even if her tender and intimate vocals little range and the album could use a bit more musical variety to help hold the listeners attention, the artist certainly has a knack for weaving an interesting story.