Just in case her work with Cliffie Swan wasn’t enough of a love letter to ’70s and ’80s pop, Sophia Knapp‘s solo debut Into the Waves confirms she truly is a throwback.
Knapp envisioned these songs as a “modern vocal pop album,” and in some ways that’s true, even though the territory into which she plunges here is almost shockingly polished, mellow, and sweet compared to almost anything recorded by her contemporaries. Rather, Into the Waves sounds like something Stevie Nicks or Olivia Newton-John would record if they were transported from their heydays into the indie sphere of the 2010s. While Knapp doesn’t quite have the charisma of either of these divas (yet), she does possess a voice like a sunbeam, full of light and bubbly warmth,…
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…and she knows how to use it. Knapp was so particular about getting the album’s sound just right that she successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for extra recording funds, and this is easily the poshest-sounding album she’s been involved with. Surrounded by lush pianos, guitars, and the occasional sparkly synth, Knapp is free to be as sugary sweet and earnest as she pleases, and she makes the most of the opportunity. The results are strangely decadent in a ladylike way, especially compared to most other music released in the 2010s; whether she sings about having “too much cake and too much wine” on the sweet opening track “Glasses High” or to “trust in your heart” on the hypnotic ballad “Evermore,” Knapp beckons her listeners to indulge in ways they might not be accustomed to. She floats from the breezy hippie-chic pop of “Weeping Willow” to the title track’s sleek synth pop ode to summer love to “Close to Me”‘s fantasy disco like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, and she actually sounds more natural in these surroundings than she does with Cliffie Swan. Knapp’s ear for authentic details will delight those familiar with her influences, and fascinate those who aren’t; for example, the water droplet sound on “Spiderweb,” a duet with Bill Callahan that sets his deep rumble against her breathy, ultra-feminine stylings perfectly, is the perfect final touch for its mystical feel. This is just one of the many flights of fancy that Knapp pulls off flawlessly on Into the Waves, an album that gives lie to the phrase “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”