Claudia Norris is a much needed reminder of what good the Internet can do for young songwriters. People searching for a creative outlet are now able to pass by the traditional gatekeepers for mass distribution like record companies, film studios, publishers, and deliver their creations directly to a (hopefully) waiting public. It’s hard for Norris, another entry in a crowded field, to be heard over the din and the thing she is forced to place her faith in the future on is the belief that talent will out. It is possible that, without the great democratizing force of Internet exposure, Norris may have never gotten such opportunities. This isn’t her debut effort, but her third EP Shine bristles with a sense of discovery, sincerity, and bravery that few acts ever reach, let alone maintain.
Shine kicks off with a keyboard and electronica powered performance of “Tonight”. Norris has a real penchant for writing memorable choruses and attacking them with tremendous verve and feeling. “Tonight” is no exception. The rhythm section comes together with imagination and the arrangement, while predictable at times, has great urgency. Norris’ wont is to utilize any musical elements at her disposal if they add something to the song and her use of guitars in the track adds sharper teeth to an already piercing opener. The title song is probably the EP’s best illustration of Norris’ talents with a chorus – her phrasing and emotive content are quite memorable. The light touch of country music influence gives it a surprising flavor juxtaposed next to the opening song.
“Sunny Afternoon” reaches for more of that simple, country-influenced flavor yet still moves with surprising finesse thanks to the rhythm section. It’s likewise an impressive vocal showcase for Norris to stretch into a variety of musical voices while never dominating the song or falling into empty histrionics. She finishes the release with another startlingly good performance on “Marry Me” and its pronounced R&B tendencies give her an excellent forum for showing further versatility. The piano, in particular, brings a melodic richness missing from the EP’s earlier tracks and Norris’ songwriting ties everything up neatly into an entertaining musical package.
Shine might, for Norris, mark that critical moment when the songwriting reaches a level that everyone hears. Things are coming together. While she still lacks a certain amount of polish and can rightly be accused of too much genre hopping, the biggest difference between her approach and others aspiring to the same sort of dexterity is that Norris can actually do it without sounding like she’s reaching. Her voice is a dynamic, inspiring instrument capable of great power and sensitivity quite unlike the vast majority of popular performers. Moreover, her commitment to involving herself in every part of the releases’ creation, writing producing and playing, distinguishes her as a true artist among pop merchants.
9 out of 10 stars.
– Cyrus Rhodes