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Brooke Waggoner's Originator is technically piano pop, but also something more

Origin Story

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A quick Google search reveals that the solo material of local singer-songwriter and Jack White sidewoman Brooke Waggoner has been tagged with the term "piano pop" on more than one occasion. And sure, she plays piano and delivers viciously infectious and proficiently sung hooks. But Waggoner lacks the sort of banality that the phrase "piano pop" might suggest. She's not making wedding-music-style schlock, or recycling Billy Joel or the quirky bounce-along poppery of Ben Folds or even Regina Spektor, and the closest she comes to a sappy or vaguely McCartney-esque ballad is the down-tempo "Squint." Even the longest, most dramatic moments on her brand-new Originator — as in album-closer "To Love," for instance — are just unpredictable and ominous enough to remain original.

With Originator, Waggoner favors action over inaction. "Don't believe in talking, useless talking," she warns in the punchy anti-pop burst of "Rumble." There's graceful tenacity here, and technical proficiency that's endless — yes, that's a clarinet, and that's a harp, and those are some rather impressive choral backing vocals in "From the Nest" and "Perish" — but not exhausting. Originator is ambitious, with asymmetrical arrangements adorned with playful piano runs and occasionally bombastic drums. But as multifaceted as it gets, and as much as its energy waxes and wanes, Originator is never overwrought or overplayed, and it always remains cohesive. Whether she's being plucky and defiant or playfully experimental, Brooke Waggoner sounds like Brooke Waggoner, and that's not something that can be adequately summed up with a simple "piano pop" tag.

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