Sound — 9
If Joss Stone and Regina Spektor are the forerunners of modern cabaret rock then Brooklyn based singer-songwriter April Smith is their soul sister. This songbird has a set of vocal pipes that can outlast the Energizer bunny with the vocal steadiness and plump voicing of Ann Wilson and the cheeky moxie of Katy Perry. Joining Smith on her latest recording Live From The Penthouse are guitarist Marty O'Kane, bass player Steve Purpuri, drummer Elliot Jacobson, and Brandon Lowry on keyboards and melodica. The quartet form Smit's sidekick The Great Picture Show with their producer Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, Jenny Owen Youngs) accompanying them on the ukulele and accordion. Live From The Penthouse crafts a contemporary sound polished with cabaret-tinged rock and swing jazz-inspired pop. It really does not matter if you don't like these styles of music because you are going to like what April Smith and her band does with them. Purpuri and Jacobson stylize the rhythmic strut of "Battle Of Eliyahu" with chorus-line kicks that put an added pounce on Smith's vocal jabs. The sultry texture of her vocals in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" kindle a burlesque swagger that is reminiscent of vintage Mitzi Gaynor, and the foxy lilt in Smith's sleek purring in "Colors" is emblematic of nostalgic Mae West. April Smith is made up of all the good parts that exceptional female vocalists have rolled up into one. She proves her chops on the piano-driven tune "Beloved," and brands "Wow And Flutter" with oodles of sexy vocals and flirtatious gestures that would impress any Playboy Playmate.
Lyrics — 8
Smith's lyrics sound clich at times and oscillate between the steadfast girlfriend like in "Colors" to the cunning vixen in "Wow And Flutter" where she retaliates, "Don't hate a girl because she knows all the ways to get beneath your clothes / Cause you played those games, down to the letter / You're just mad cause I play them better." She sounds like someone raised on the TV hit series Sex In The City, but she switches gears to the devoted partner in "Colors" with verses that resound, "I'll wear your colors my dear / Until you're standing right here / Next to the one who adores you / Whose heart is beating for you / Like a lighthouse guides a shipwrecked sailor safely from the sea / I'll wear your colors till you come back home to me." Here, she sounds like she was influenced by the movie From Here To Eternity but whether she is playing the savvy vixen or the steadfast lover, she puts everything she has into the vocal melodies.
Overall Impression — 9
April Smith picks up where Lily Allen left off. Awarded the Best Pop/Rock Song for her tune "Colors" at the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards and named Top Female Vocalist at Asbury Music Festival in 2005, 2006, and 2007, April Smith has been honing her talent in rock 'n' roll's underground for a while and is so ready for bigger stages. Her songs have been featured on the MTV hit series The Hills and Newport Harbor, and her tracks are gaining speed on mainstream radio. Speaking about being on the verge of breaking out, there is no hope for modern pop/rock to have credibility if April Smith is not on board.