You knew her as the carefree spirit that charmed Tyra Banks on the CW Network's hit show 'America's Next Top Model.' Now know Sarah VonderHaar as the same carefree spirit returning to her first love, that being music and songwriting and she certainly proves potential staying power in music in her aptly titled debut, 'Are You Listening Now,' due out in the early part of 2008, which puts the former ANTM'er turned back into singer/songwriter from Lake Zurich, IL on Musiqtone's list of acts to watch out for in 2008.
The Marshall Altman-produced album (Matt Nathanson, Curtis Peoples) starts with the airy 'All Mine' and the song will remind listeners of the current version of Mandy Moore. 'Over You' has a dark but yet sexy charm and its evident in Sarah's vocal delivery, which has her in her lower register as opposed to the wistful, airy start of 'All Mine.' The song should be quite relatable to her female fans as it talks about relationships that should have never happened in the first place.
Now for the most part, title tracks are exactly what they are, JUST title tracks but in Sarah's case, it's one of the strongest tracks of the album. The song is full of emotion (the song hits very close to the singer-songwriter as it accounts to coming to terms with her father's passing) and meaning all without overexerting a la Kelly Clarkson.
If she were signed on a major label, this song could certainly make its way to adult alternative and/or even Top 40. The subtle country-like charm further makes the song even better.
'Sing Me To Sleep' hits Sarah's wild rock chick side with the heavy drums, rollicking melody and the pulsating electric guitars. Her young female fans will be drawn to this song about missed chances and not taking it any longer.
The next song, the piano-driven 'Just Go' shows her contemplative side. Like the title track, Sarah's lyrics and vocals conveys the hopeful but pensive tone of the song without overexerting like many of her counterparts are prone to do even in contemplative and heartfelt songs. The background strings adds a touch of airiness to a song seemingly about moving on with hope.
Overall the 9-track album is a good start for the multi-talented VonderHaar. There are times when Sarah is in love with her upper register and it makes her sound younger than she is and for singer-songwriters who have hit it big, you try to avoid that if your natural register is more evident in other songs and for Sarah, she sounds more natural and sure of herself in songs like the title track. Everyone wants to show a wide register but you try to settle for the most part a happy medium.
Despite the overall shortness, the album hits on a notion many singer-songwriters fail to grasp: the need to be layered and creating a kind of motif that is distinct but yet recognizable and in the 9-tracker, the listener can see Sarah wearing all her emotions on her sleeve. On one side you can see the rebellious spirit at heart in songs like 'Sing Me To Sleep." On another side of her, you see the hopeful but pensiveness in 'Just Go' and then you have the playful rock chick you hear in 'It's Not The First Time.' This album should appeal to just about everyone who is into acoustic-driven pop/rock with an edginess and layering of emotions.
If the title is right, you should be listening to Sarah VonderHaar right now.
Name: "Are You Listening Right Now "
Release Date: Early 2008
My rating: 4.2 out of 5
Alan Ho is the chief head of Musiqtone. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org