1 min

Synth pop

Savvy & heartfelt

Once in a while, an album is released that doesn’t try overly hard to impress, that isn’t vying desperately to be heard on the airwaves. It just is what it is. That’s the case for Sacha Sacket’s new CD, Shadowed.

LA native, classically trained and former coffeehouse crooner, Sacket recently released the follow-up to his debut record, 2001’s well-received Alabaster Flesh, which was nominated for best album by the US-based Outmusic Awards. Shadowed should garner more positive attention for Sacket.

Shadowed is one of those too few examples where sexuality doesn’t trump the message; it’s a collection of deeply personal songs, drawing equal amounts of inspiration from 1970s Elton John, Little Earthquakes-era Tori Amos and current electronic blips and bleeps, yet Shadowed still sounds entirely genuine and heartfelt.

Sacket’s fey, gentle baritone guides the songs through a remarkably varied tempo and pace. “Kite High” is a delicately upbeat, synth-pop-lite number, while “Desire” bounces along at a frenzied pace with spaced out piano and carefully arranged electronic flourishes.
Shadowed’s clincher track has to be “At A Time,” a forlorn ballad about badly timed love, replete with wrenching vocals and the perfect string accompaniment. The subtle and brilliant electronics on “Cockatoo” make it sound like an extraterrestrial broadcast coming in from another galaxy, a surefire studio trick (used to brilliant effect on The Beatles’ “Across The Universe” from last year’s revamped Let It Be… Naked).

For all its adroit production, Sacket’s voice always remains at the fore, exemplified best on “Stuck In The Sunset,” one of the album’s strongest melodic tracks where he sings, “The endless ivy/ Wrapped up around me/ I thought of your dumb smile/ And let the sky pour loose.” The cover art features Sacket in various back-to-nature vignettes, hands dirty, clothing tattered, a visual metaphor for the gritty, honest emotions revealed on the songs within.

Comparisons to Rufus Wainwright may be inevitable, but Shadowed may just steal away a few Rufus fans who have become disenfranchised with Wainwright’s increasing shift toward operatic chamber pop. While not as intensely demanding of the listener as Rufus, Shadowed isn’t fluff either. It’s a listenable, well crafted, dreamy and occasionally hooky foray into 21st-century singer/ songwriter pop.