Small Circle of Light
A unique blend of melodic pop/rock guitar and moody keyboard balladry, rich with harmonic vocal textures.
Ramona Silver’s 6th release, Small Circle of Light, taps a range of musical influences from the 1970s-80s: Til Tuesday to The Carpenters; Harry Nilsson to Nanci Griffith; Brian Wilson to Queen. The blend of these, however, comes out distinctly Silver’s, 2011. Trading off between guitars and keyboards, Silver's new batch of songs go beyond her trend of eclectic pop/rock with a new maturity of sounds and poignant lyrics.
Silver’s trademark Les Paul guitar keeps its rightful edgy place in her lineup of sonic colors, as in the eerie opener, “Hero,” and the triumphant pop of “Idiot’s Delight.” While these two songs differ in writing styles, both are closet rockers the listener must wade into to fully experience. Hero's slow groove buildup of guitar/bass/drums mixes with an atmospheric carousel organ halfway through, and the lyrics follow suit. Though at the start she directs her pining towards a male figure hero, the lyric moves outward to show a bigger frustration -- the longing too long for life’s fulfillment. Easier to read is “Idiot’s Delight,” a straight-ahead, hooky rock gem displaying vivid snapshots of a worn-out domestic argument, with a bite (“There’s a silence in the kitchen, never heard eggs fry so loud”).
The acoustic guitar-based “State of Being Grey” and “Salt of the Sea” offer space for glimpsing rhythm loops, Wurly sounds, kid gang vocals, and even a passing train. While “State…” reflects fearfully on growing old in different relationships (in this case, with a lover, a mother, and the Earth), “Salt...” is a happier resignation that each day is a gift just to be alive (“I’m a lucky me to be free, I’m a lucky lung just to breathe”).
The CD turns toward a lament on the two piano-based songs, “Big Fat Lie” and “Small Circle of Light,” in which darker vocals and harmonic bass lines float over a subdued parlor piano. Though likely a typical set up for brooding young-love lyrics, Silver instead speaks to the conflicts facing older hearts. In Big Fat Lie, she wants “out” before a relationship even begins (“There’s a better place to be then wasting away on pretty dreams”), and in the title track, “Small Circle of Light” Silver weighs years of a messy but still committed relationship (“I know we weren’t always truthful 60 years of life, and these are pills we have to take to help us sleep at night”). The latter song closes the CD with a slow, swirling buildup of voices and instruments, rippling echoes on the final word "light," only to end with a long fade of discordant piano notes. It's a blurry light, but a light nonetheless.