Elisa Peimer Looks at Life From “Inside the Glass”
Elisa Peimer is not your typical singer/songwriter/folk artist. Many of her songs are played on the keyboard, not your standard issue folk instrument. Her background started at a young age with an interest in show tunes. As an adult, her early recordings would probably be classified in record stores (if any still exist) as “pop” music. Yet her new recording Inside the Glass showcases a talent that fits in well with the best of the living traditions of the contemporary folk scene. Her songs come from a community of shared feelings and situations, which is the roots of folk song.
I first met Elisa back in 2012 when she was part of Joni Mitchell’s Blue: A 40th Anniversary Celebration, a CD and a tour that was put together by musicians collective Chicks With Dip. After joining the collective, an informal musical collective of the NYC area’s finest female singer-songwriters, Elisa became became inspired by the energy and talent of the group to begin work on her new CD. The songs she began creating developed a new edge and she ended up with a diverse and highly entertaining recording.
Inside the Glass, Elisa’s fifth CD, explores different styles and exhibits her skills in telling stories and sharing experiences. One of my favorite cuts is “Bobby Hollywood,” a song inspired by an overheard conversation at the Union Square Green Market in NYC. It is a homage of sorts to life long New Yorkers and the more recent hipster converts that make up the ever changing city scene.
The song “Daffodils” was born out of a winter that seemingly would never end and it delivers a welcome sense of hope and a reminder that things will get better. Much needed at any time of the year!
The topic of “love” has always been a staple of the singer-songwriter genre. The tribulations of relationships have led to countless songs about the subject. Elisa takes a new approach with “Good Song” about a woman who finally meets the right guy and becomes miserable because she now writes corny songs. The upbeat tempo and pop stylings of the recording are far from corny and reveal a clever songwriter with a unique insight.
Elisa also tackles the subject of love and relationships in songs like “What Would He Say.” The recording of the song centers on Elisa’s voice and her keyboard and delivers a moving and somewhat bittersweet performance. Likewise, the CD’s opening song “Better” deals with a woman questioning whether they are with the right person.
Inside the Glass was produced by Elisa and Irwin Menken (The Lee Ranaldo Band)and was recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Ted Young (Sonic Youth, Mick Jagger). Accompanying artists on the recording include her Chicks with Dips peers Cheryl Prashker and Carolann Solebello. Elisa’s husband, Jon Sobel plays bass on a number of the cuts and also accompanied Elisa when she performed on my radio show.
Elisa impresses with her fresh and interesting perspectives on topics that could become cliche in the wrong hands. Elisa crafts powerful songs and possesses a stunning voice. This new CD and her concert performances reveal a unique artist whose profile is rising in the acoustic music community.
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
INTENSE, PURIST, CATCHY TUNESMITHING AND DEVASTATING WIT FROM ELISA PEIMER
Singer/keyboardist Elisa Peimer is a lot smarter, and edgier, and funnier than your typical folk-pop songwriter. She has a distinctive, soul-infused, slightly throaty delivery, has a way with a classic pop hook and also a devastating wit. When her lyrics aren’t uproariously amusing, they’re a lot more subtle. Case in point: Better, the big, Celtic-flavored 6/8 ballad that opens her new album Inside the Glass, streaming at her webpage. It’s not a typical kiss-off song: instead of chronicling a list of misdeeds, Peimer puts a positive spin on an otherwise gloomy storyline. Will the girl in the narrative realize that she can do better than the guy she’s with, who’s always got one eye on whoever’s coming through the front door of the bar? No spoilers here. Peimer and her excellent band – whose core is Paul Cabri on guitars, Irwin Menken on bass and John Clancy on drums – are playing the album release show on June 12 at 6 (six) PM at First Acoustics Coffeehouse in the basement of First Unitarian Church, 50 Monroe Pl. at Pierrepont St. in downtown Brooklyn. Take any train to Borough Hall; cover is $10 and includes yummy vegetarian food.
The funniest song on the album is titled Good Song. Anyone in the arts can relate to this one – see, the girl in the story used to write one great tune after another until she finally got into a good relationship with a guy. Now she’s happy…but she’s miserable all the same since all her new songs are trite and cheesy. The last verse is priceless. Bad relationships: the gift that keeps on giving!
The band blazes through stomping, new wave-inspired powerpop in the bittersweet Good for You, a dead ringer for vintage early 80s Motels. Bobby Hollywood, another Celtic anthem, is Peimer at her crushingly sardonic best. In a couple of tersely crafted verses and a chorus, she nails the pathology of the kind of gentrifier narcissists who frequent places like the Union Square greenmarket:
I was buying Brooklyn pickles
Made by a hipster out in Queens
Surrounded by my neighbors
In their hundred dollar jeans
But the one that caught my eye
Was the one that didn’t care
About the cooking demonstration
‘Cause Bobby Hollywood died right there
..But the teller of the story
Seemed to vanish in the crowd
Lost in trucker hats and strollers
Of the financially endowed…
Aloft with pilllowy strings, the parlor pop ballad Poetry is a lot more enigmatic – until the ending, which is way too good to give away. Hint: this song is MEAN! The band gets electric again on It’s All Right, a mashup of Rolling Thunder Revue Dylan and more recent folk-pop. Then Peimer switches to guitar for the delicously jangly, uneasly anthemic Can’t Make Me Stop Loving You.
She paints a guardedly hopeful late-winter tableau in Daffodils, then follows that with a considerably more morose, angst-infused parlor-pop ballad, What Would He Say. The album winds up with the towering, overcast art-rock anthem This Life. Another first-class release from a member of the Brooklyn-based Chicks with Dip songwriters’ collective, whose members include Aimee Van Dyne, Sharon Goldman, Carolann Solebello and several other cult favorite songsmiths..
Richard Cuccaro April 06, 2016
Elisa Peimer’s voice is a compelling instrument. Although it’s hard to tell from a studio recording just how powerful a singer’s voice is, one thing is certain: Peimer’s voice conveys enormous emotional presence.
She has a knack for writing dramatic songs that could serve as a soundtrack to a movie or a score for a broadway musical.
Case in point, the chorus for “It’s Alright,” track 6 on Inside the Glass: It’s alright, I’m alright / Hoping I can find the answers / I’m trying, I’m lying / Right beside the one to set me free. We don’t know the specifics of the unsettling mysteries within the relationship in the song, but Peimer’s vocal convinces us that she’s shaken by doubt, but determined to see the dilemma through.
Likewise, in “Daffodils,” while the lyrics might seem mundane, her performance gives me plenty of reason to relate to her point of view: When the winter wind is blowing again / And the arctic air is keeping me in / I have faith that spring is around the bend / And the daffodils will appear again / And the daffodils will appear in the new year.
In “Bobby Hollywood,” we get a strong taste of her powers of observation and attention to detail: I was buying Brooklyn pickles / Made by a hipster out in Queens / Surrounded by my neighbors / In their hundred dollar jeans / But the man that caught my eye / Was the one who didn’t care / About the cooking demonstration / Cause Bobby Hollywood died right there.
The album’s climax, “This Life,” has all the trappings of a rock anthem. Peimer’s vocal soars as she sings: But this life / Will never come again / So why do I pretend / That that’s OK / One chance / Is all we’re gonna get / So why do I forget / And lose my way.
She convinces us that she’s a force to be taken seriously.