One of the primary reasons why the homogeneous state of mainstream pop/rock in 2002 proved so frustrating was because there still existed bona fide tunesmiths capable of writing the sort of gloriously memorable songs that, when you hear them years later, mark specific places or events in your life. Andrea Perry proved to be precisely that caliber of songwriter on her first album. Too bad, then, that so few people heard its overflow of pleasures. Those who were lucky enough to come across Saturday Morning Sweet Shoppe were cast into a Spector-centric universe where girl group pop never, in fact, went away. And in a just world, Perry -- a Lesley Gore sound-alike with the decidedly mature compositional skills of Carole King -- would have Top Ten singles with three-fourths of the songs on her even more winning sophomore record. Two offers all the same pleasures as its predecessor but is an even more artful, confident, and distinctive outing. This is most immediately apparent in Perry's assured production, which, while still humble in its do-it-yourself conception, is considerably more detailed throughout, particularly by way of its overlay of keyboard-generated parts and a cornucopia of self-harmonies (perfectly illustrated on the chorus of "Make the World Go 'Round," which, cleverly, is a musical round). Two can be experienced to greatest effect, however, by letting the diversity of its songs pour over you, whether the swirling good cheer of "Bursting Through the Clouds," with its see-saw circus melody, the subtle funk touches (including a too-brief wah-wah solo) of "On No! The Day Is Dawning," or several enchanting lullabies: "You Broke the Spell" (which, contrary to its message, casts a spell), the hypnotically Baroque "Bye Bye," and "Higher," a gorgeously weary evocation of devotion. And in the culminating "Across the Water," Perry has conceived as stunning an epic, searching, Beatlesque piano ballad as has come down the line since Paul McCartney wrote a little tune called "Let It Be." Seriously.
by Stanton Swihart