Sierra Swan avoids the trappings that usually plague up-and-coming singer/songwriters with her debut album Ladyland. Where most artists of this ilk will either fail to survive the transition from stage to studio or just get steamrolled by overzealous producers once they get there, Swan follows in the tradition of Kate Bush, achieving a zen-like balance with the studio space. This is no doubt thanks to producer Linda Perry, who seems to have a profound understanding of Swan's songwriting style, as well as her throaty voice: sultry and gritty with a velvety vibrato. Perry's insightful grasp of Swan's instrument must owe, at least in part, to her own singing voice being remarkably similar. She used this same talent for dealing with a growly female timbre like her own in her masterful work with Pink on M!ssundaztood. However, while Pink's teen pop material is more complex and aggressive than many artists of her genre, it remains dramatically different from Swan's earthy, elegant style. The piano, winds, and strings on the record sound unmistakably like early Fiona Apple, while the way Swan changes gears between ethereal and intimate in both her performance and composition is very reminiscent of Milla and Aimee Mann -- the latter of whom co-wrote and provided background vocals for one of the album's best tracks, "Get Down to It." Each song on the disc is carried off with a smooth, glam rock swagger that serves well to showcase Swan's ironic and emotional lyrics. Still, while she skillfully avoids the shrill melodrama of Paula Cole and the forced anger of Tracy Bonham, Swan's deeply personal record never reaches a crescendo. It would have been nice to see her slice through the immaculate production once or twice and provide a glimpse of something a little more raw in her music and performance, but neither her songs nor her voice ever seem to lose their cool. Maybe that constraint is an indication that Perry, while far from steamrolling over her protégé's work, still gripped it with heavy hands.
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AllMusic Review by Cammila Collar
feat: Aimee Mann