By Charles Lam
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When Korean American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Clara Chung (also known as ClaraC) released her first album, “The Art in my Heart,” she was riding a wave of success after taking victories at Kollaboration 10, KAC Media Juice Night, and Wong Fu Productions and Far East Movement’s ISA and graduating college. Her success kicked off multiple tours, both stateside and abroad, as well as collaborations with Asian American YouTube stars Nigahiga and Dumbfoundead, introducing the world to her brand of folksy pop.
Her second album, Esc, finds Clara in a slightly calmer place in her life (emphasis on slightly) though the calm isn’t reflected in the music.
Track one, “You’ve Got It All,” is a strong introduction to her vocal stylings. The song shows off nearly every aspect of her ability, from her traditional soft, soothing, and bubbly vocals that draw listeners in the same way she draws out notes, to the slightly surprising way she can play with the percussiveness of syllables. Her voice is the star of the show, accompanied only by a light application of tinkling piano, guitar, and bass.
The second track, “Quesadilla,” serves as a sort of antithesis to the first. Whereas “You’ve Got It All” was directed by Clara’s voice, “Quesadilla” is definitely propelled by the driving instrumentation. The increased backing allows Chung to experiment to a higher degree with her voice, self-harmonizing for a large chunk of the song.
Though the beginning of the album may seem like standard folky female single-songwriter fare, barely distinguishable from most artists with last names like Bareilles or Michaelson, Esc does open up stylistically.
Track three, “Let Grow,” pairs Chung with an unexpected partner — synth. The addition repaces the album, introducing a ghostlier sound, and transitions directly into the fourth track, “False Start,” with its downright dark, minor key vocals.
If you’re afraid, don’t worry. The album closes like it begins: solid, smooth, and familiar, like sweet vanilla. Closing tracks “Fish” and “These Are the Good Old Days” are strong without being jarring and leave Esc with a pleasant after taste.
Esc isn’t the kind of album that’ll get you excited, but it is a strong effort from a strong artist. The best way to describe it is safe: it’s warm, relatable, and familiar, with just the tiniest bit of variance. You might even say that, if you need to relax, it provides just a tiny bit of escape. (end)
ClaraC and David Choi are playing in Seattle Friday, Oct. 5 at the Neptune Theatre. To buy tickets, visit http://bit.ly/NP5Qjr. To learn more about Clara and to buy her album, visit www.claracmusic.com.
Charles Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.