Sophie Koorhan’s musical journey began like most red-blooded young folks, performing at high school as part of her a cappella group. Her talent garnered her opportunities to sing the National Anthem at center court for her school’s state-ranked basketball team but it wasn’t until she found herself sitting before a piano, teaching herself chords, that her future began to come into focus. It was there that her love for music and songwriting came to light, eventually leading the artist to study at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, “where she is honing her writing, performance and business skills.”
During her free time, Koorhan has been hard at work on her debut project, For a Fella. Boasting twelve original tracks, the album draws heavily from a piano-driven pop motif that recalls artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, and more. Yet, Koorhan has a few tricks up her sleeve and it’s those moments of added texture and maturity that help give the record that needed lift.
Playful and pop-tinged but her vocal draws from a deeper well, bringing a sultry, soulful personality to bear.
“One Sided Love” falls right into Koorhan’s piano pop wheelhouse, a playful arrangement colored with peppy percussion and hints of violin and a lyric that asks the question, “Why does it seem the ones I don’t want always love me?” while struggling with the counterpoint that, “And yet you won’t.” The artist shows a different side of her vocals on “Frayed,” delivering a more honeyed, warm tone while piano and relational lyrics carry the load as the title track lets her put forth a lovely pop gem, lighthearted lyrics of love meeting with a breezy composition that fits it nicely.
Yet, it’s with “Butter Knife” that Koorhan really steps out and shines. The track is still playful and pop-tinged but her vocal draws from a deeper well, bringing a sultry, soulful personality to bear that recalls Adele and ZZ Ward with its passion and in your face style. It’s a sound that the artist fits into well and is one that she’d be well served by nurturing more as it’s definitely one of the highlights here.
“Near Kiss” is a subtle track, solo piano and brushed drums setting the table for a lovelorn lyric as “Perfect Pair” brightens things up with ukulele and an infectious vocal that brings an instant smile. Koorhan tries her hand at a duet on “Thinking of Another,” with guest vocals from Adam Dobkin but, while the track is pleasant, it’s frankly nothing special, rehashing some of the same sonic territory while failing to really find that perfect harmony.
There’s plenty here for listeners to enjoy…
“Done Wrong,” however, brings Koorhan back to that darker vocal territory, smooth and sexy, and it’s a welcome treat. Her delivery is packed with a forthright spirit as she sings, “And if we’re betting if I go to hell/Then I’ve got the highest bid.” Her composition meets her in the same place, the piano keys even seeming that more infused with energy, even in their lighter moments while “Can’t Go Through” and its tale of a lover’s betrayal carries those moody tones to a painful place on another highlight. Another tale of betrayal colors “Girl No” but the effect isn’t nearly as successful, the chorus proving to lack the punch that it needs but “Supposed to Be” is a return to the artist’s familiar saccharine sweetness, her vocal light and airy over a gentle arrangement. “Incredible” moves forward to close things out with a solid ending wraps the record up nicely with more pop flair.
Sophie Koorhan’s debut, For a Fella, is not a perfect album but it’s a pretty great start for the young artist. Here she finds plenty of room for her fluid voice, moving from lighthearted fare to more mature tones with ease, crafting a set of songs that explore a plethora of relational themes with maturity and poise. And while in the future she might want to continue to press into those darker tones, as she truly shines when she does, there’s plenty here for listeners to enjoy in the meantime.
Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars