s 2011 debut Mantic
exhibited a songwriter in her musical infancy, as Melissa Sweat commandeered a Sylvia Plath reference and created the album with no real experience or training, having begun learning piano just a couple of years prior. Where Sweat’s proficiency could not take her, her creativity and guts did, resulting in wistful sketches where her introspection and the listeners’ coexist. The biggest downside to such raw material is that it’s impossible to recreate, dependent on inexperience and a lack of inhibitions.
Sweat is at peace with this on All My Love In Half Light, embracing her growth as a musician and as a songwriter. Where Mantic collected moments of beauty and displayed them as a single tapestry, here, Sweat introduces her aptitude for creating singular songs, soaring beyond what her previous work foreshadowed. “Wonder, Inc.” is Sweat’s finest composition yet, opening with a spare, crawling verse in which her words linger lightly over three minutes before backing into an instantly familiar refrain. This flirtation with pop accessibility seems almost haphazard, an unexpected and affecting result of her routine and her ambition. “Eventide” follows this lead, with Sweat tilling the idea of repetition for its possibilites, flaunting her vocal shortcomings in a humanizing and believable turn.
For better and for worse, All My Love In Half Light also sees Lady Lazarus finding her footing as a musician, and is a less cohesive and consistent statement than Mantic. Sweat exhibits a front-porch drawl on the dusty accordion-backed “Lapsarian”, seeming out of step with the church-house clarity of “Edge”, neither fitting with the dueling pitches of “Argosy”. Her lyrical meditations unite the collection, like narration in a Terrance Malick film, but this is not enough to keep All My Love In Half Light from feeling transitional — a part of her journey. The heights she reaches make it easy to forget that we’re watching a born-artist becoming a musician, usually a private process that Sweat shares with intimacy, with each slight stumble a step closer to her goal.
Essential Tracks: “Wonder, Inc.”, “Gleam”