Amy O – Shell review

by Richard Wyatt

Bloomington, Ind. singer-songwriter, Amy Oelsner, has been releasing albums as Amy O since 2004. Her latest, Shell, is her third studio collection, and tenth overall if all her many years of home recordings are included.

Shell is by far Oelsner’s most complete work to date, but maintains her signature homespun indie-pop sound intertwined with her captivating lyrical personal story telling. The album deals with the transition from youth to becoming an adult, including the complications of when the ‘adult’ self has moved forward with its life – while other parts of ourselves associated with our younger lives are left behind.

Lead single, Planet Blue, is a catchy and playful song, somewhat akin to Snail Mail, which masks darker lyrical content as the song deals with the difficulty of grieving, while capturing how lightness and silliness can sometimes coexist with depression – ‘Planet Blue has a big bed to dream in/ Silky sheets pretending to sail to sea with, … And a plane to jump out of the sky screaming/ Feather pillow to bury your head in waiting.’

The title track Shell is another lively power pop song, which deals with Oelsner grappling with the person she used to be after reading through old emails and letters she had previously written. It’s a song about celebrating the ways she has grown as person whilst attempting to reincorporate some of the traits she has lost over the years.

The subtle twang of Rest Stop helps emphasise the depth of Oelsner’s song writing, as it contrasts dramatically from her trade mark sound, but with equally enjoyable outcomes as she sings A lot of things have changed/ A lot of things remain the same’. The song was written in a period of stability shortly after a time of change, which saw Oelsner get married, move to a new home, and quit a job of five years, as well as becoming a song writing teacher at a local community college and launching Girls Rock Bloomington a music camp for girls, trans and non-binary youth.

This album is an infectious effort, which – despite dealing with complex emotions – is an album to help get through the approaching shorter and colder winter days and nights with a smile on your face.

Secret Meeting score: 80


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