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Review

Powerful female vocalist draws inspiration from past

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October 21, 2010

I love female vocalists, especially when they are in rock ensembles. From better known artists like Joan Jett or the more obscure Vincent Shadow. “Truth or Dare” is Automatic Loveletter’s second studio album, and it is an impressive one.

Twenty-four-year old Juliet Simms has one of the best voices in rock. Period. She is on key, she can hold some impressively long notes, and she has a passion in her voice that hasn’t been heard since the power ballads from Melissa Etheridge. There is a rough, gritty, and sexy edge to Simms’ vocal talents that sent shivers up my spine.  For a rock singer, it is obvious that Simms has had plenty of training. This album is all about Simms. Juliet wrote ten of the twelve songs on the album. In the liner notes, she jokes and says “Thanks to…my cat Emma, and to all my ex-boyfriends for their inspiration.”  From track to track she can jump from quiet and reserved, only to then belt out some amazing vocals.

The track “Hush,” is a perfect example of this.  The first half of the song is deceptively relaxed, and almost shy. There is a dramatic shift in the song after the first 45 seconds, and a vocal beast is unleashed! A once quiet vocal set is suddenly driving and intense. The lyrics on some of the songs are a bit weak, for example the chorus for the first track, “Heart Song”, is simply “That’s when you shot through the heart, You had me right from the start, a critical shot to the heart.” Some of the tracks have some stronger, more creative lyrics, but my only complaint about “Truth or Dare” is its lack of lyrical depth.
The more I listen to the album, I realize that the members of Automatic Loveletter understand that the Simms’ vocal talent is the focal point of the music.

If you listen closely, you can hear that Simms sings all the parts in the various harmonies throughout the album. Just one more example of what a talented singer this young woman is. Although the grinding guitars, and thumping drums help on some tracks, again, this album is about Juliet Simms, and by listening, you can tell the guys in the band realize that. You just won’t be hearing a ton of solos from anyone other than Juliet, so if you are looking for strong instrumentation, you’d be best to look elsewhere. I’m not saying that the other guys are not good drummer Dean Butterworth, keyboard player Oligee and guitarist/bassist Jessie Owen Astin can hold their own on this album, but the fact remains, they just aren’t as impressive as Ms. Simms.

“Truth or Dare” is a fun and fresh album, and if you are a fan of female vocalists, definitely check this one out. I think you’ll agree with me after listening to a few tracks, she has one of the most original and daring voices in rock. 

Jon Lyksett is a student at UW-River Falls.