oakland, california based singer/songwriter amina shareef ali writes deeply personal songs that walk the line between pop, country and folk punk. I covered her last album 'a place to remember the dead' here in 2014, which featured alt-country arrangements of her bittersweet ballads and sometimes just bitter rock songs. the follow-up album, 'in the dark (awake of course)' due out on march 29th, has shed some of the production, favoring a stripped down sound, with mostly just acoustic guitar and a voice or two. the mid-album track 'ready 2 love U' (the stylization of the title seems to be a prince shout-out) is a gritty exception, featuring drums and some crunchy electric guitar. this sparse style allows the caustic and often darkly funny lyrics to take center stage, and they are worth listening to. i love a line in the aforementioned 'ready 2 love U' : "i'm ready to hang my leather jacket next to yours, and i'm ready to love you". a wonderful and relatable romantic image, punks in love.
my favorite track on the album is 'dog', which features fingerpicked guitar with notes that seem to bend and contort to match the angry/sad energy of the vocals. overall, the songwriting here reminds me a bit of paul simon, or carly simon (haha) though without the slick production and astronomical budgets. the atmosphere is DIY, but these are songs that create an emotional landscape through evocative physical details and wry descriptions of those kinds of feelings that are hard to shake without writing about them.