Suzanna Choffel: Steady Eye, Shaky Bow

What if Nelly Furtado recorded jazzy pop instead of club music, Adele learned how to write more than three types of songs, and Zero 7 weren't so damn boring? Suzanna Choffel, an Austin-based guitar and voice teacher, takes the potential of other artists rooted in R&B, pop, and moody electronica, and actually fulfills it. Her eclectic sophomore release traffics in blue-eyed soul viewed through an indie-rock lens. New Orleans-flavored lead single "Raincloud" showcases Choffel as a smoldering, sassy vocal gymnast, but it's the fair-skinned funk of "Stumble" that should be Steady's calling card. The track buries Choffel's scatty voice slightly, allowing her stellar band to pepper in springing guitars, ominous vibes, shivering pianos, and one of the phattest beats in Texas this year. Other highlights include the macabre soul of opener "Archer" and the bare balladry of closer "Come Clean." The latter implies a coming bombastic climax when Choffel sings nakedly in the song's quietist moment, but she puts the track to bed with a final chorus and a high note on the piano instead. Steady's seamless melding of genres, quality songwriting, and unparalleled musicianship should serve as a warning to musicians of higher sales but lower caliber: All you need is time and talent.

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