ALBUM REVIEW: “Ad Astra” by Shevy Smith

May 01. 2012 | By Jason Martinez

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Shevy Smith
Ad Astra
[VivDog Records]

Ad Astra [Per Aspera], the motto of 28-year-old Shevy Smith’s native Kansas, is an apt title for her new LP. Its meaning, “To the stars through difficulty,” fits both her California-bound, by way of Nashville, life story, and the listener’s experience through this, her debut album. The difficulty lies near the album’s beginning; her lyrics fall just short of poetry, her hooks aren’t hooky enough. Songs like “Truckee” wouldn’t sound out of place on a CW drama, but, like much of the album, it relies too much on clichés; “Chemical Church” even ends with the pitter-patter of raindrops.

Throughout her songs, Smith looks inward, and Ad Astra suffers a bit for it. The album feels too personal, which isn’t necessarily bad, but great songwriters can make the personal feel universal and vice versa, and Smith isn’t quite there yet. She almost reaches the stars on the second half: “Fine Mess” is a bluesy, Sheryl Crow-esque gem. “Artificial Heart” post-punks its way into your ear, and “Shine” sounds like her definitive statement of redemption. Ad Astra has a few memorable moments, but not enough of it grabs your brain and soul to leave a lasting impact.

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