Everything Changed is Abra Moore's first album in six years. The struggle to bring it to life -- from the shambles of another record deal and the tumultuous life occurrences addressed in its songs -- places it automatically outside the realm of the simple ambition required to advance one's career by issuing a new pop album. As such, it is necessary to forgo the standard critical language in addressing it, and to meet it on its own terms and speak its language: that of the human heart, exposed, raw, and desiring wholeness. What is contained within these 13 songs is something mercurial, enigmatic; in essence, it is a work of desire but not covetousness. These songs communicate directly to anyone who has ever experienced wholesale, soul-threatening brokenness and wears the exquisite scar that informs everyday life in its aftermath. Inside the album's booklet, on its first facing page, is a photograph of Moore either entering or emerging from kissing her image in a mirror. It contains no vanity or narcissism. Instead, it expresses honest, ego-less self-regard and beatific love. It is nearly holy in its expression, because it understands that in order to extend oneself to others, one has to accept and embrace the truth and beauty of her own countenance in frailty and vulnerability, as well as in strength and purpose. The music on this record fleshes out this archetype with spiritual and emotional depth and dimension. Moore worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Joyce on Everything Changed. The end result not only extended her aesthetic reach, but raised his creative watermark as well. Using everything at her disposal, including standard rock instrumentation, ornate strings, keyboard and percussion treatments, electronic beats and textures, and wonderfully subtle atmospherics, Moore strips the considerable quirky charm displayed on her earlier records to the bone; in its place is naked, tender, and sometime frightening emotion, presented with painstaking attention to detail and lush arrangements not to soften the impact, but to celebrate it fearlessly. Ultimately, everything on Everything Changed is a love song that reveals its many faces to be sure, but also its shadows. On "I Do," with its gorgeous cornet and piano intro, love is expressed as solidarity and faith. "No Fear" is love as invitation to an inward journey with the Beloved. Its off-kilter and loopy nocturnal keyboards and rhythm machines usher in a skeletal verse. It breaks itself wide open in the refrain, and that love enters the world. The totality of love is in "Big Sky," with giddy guitars that bounce and pop against snare drums and washes of electronic and organic keyboards. "Melancholy Love" articulates love as raw need, with its unhurried state of grace delving deeply into the grain of that emotion as marrow; acoustic guitars and hand percussion sway and weave through the lyric. "Family Affair" and "Pull Away" are the centerpieces of the album; they offer a portrait of love's aftermath as utter ruin, one that purifies as its burns away and hollows. On both tracks, pianos and strings create the lilting lyric lines that reveal the emptiness and ache in the grain of Moore's voice. It is the sound of one's skin being removed in order to reveal the unidentifiable treasures -- even to the protagonist -- within. But as memories of love's sweetness and its fracture become known, other instruments illustrate these mixed and overwhelming emotions with great taste that reveal grace in the process. This is also true of tracks such as "I Win" and "The End." But there is the victorious dimension of love as well -- the one that exists on the other side of its loss. "Taking Chances," with its minimal yet elegant guitars and shuffling drums, becomes a swirling anthem of willingness and purpose. It displays fearlessness not because the protagonist isn't afraid, but because she is, yet is willing to step over the line and speak anyway. "Shining Star," which closes the album, showcases fat, treated acoustic and phased electric guitars that entwine in the center of the mix just over the drums and pulsing synthesizers to underscore the singer's utter lack of guile in letting go and embracing whatever comes next. For his part, Joyce is a fantastic guitarist who colors and expands the melody while never saturating it. His method of orchestration and dynamic is nothing short of brilliant and restrained. He takes Moore's lyric as instruction inside his arrangement and lets it be the guiding force for its execution. This pair may adorn these songs in something that approaches innocent whimsy, but they never attempt to mask the sterling, rigorous emotional pictures in Moore's words. Ultimately, on Everything Changed, Moore elevates the pop song to the place of art form and poetry. Quite unintentionally, it is one of those major statements that redefine an artist outside of her previously defined context. She accomplishes in her way what Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark or Rickie Lee Jones' Pirates did. Everything Changed is aptly titled; within its grooves is the terrain where the past falls away in a shining, deeply moving moment of clarity, and everything, present and future, becomes not only new, but entirely possible.
Everything Changed Review
by Thom Jurek