Reeya Banerjee’s Latest Album “The Way Up”
New York City based singer Reeya Banerjee’s new album The Way Up wrestles with themes in and outside the purview of modern music. Subjects such as mental illness are broad stroked when confronted at all or else weighed with such a heavy hand as to make the listening experience unbearable. This isn’t to suggest that the eight songs included on the album are bursting with hand wringing and relentless brooding; they aren’t. Songwriter Luke Folger has crafted a diverse series of compositions for her and she goes places few singers today travel.
The second-generation Indian hails from a musical background with a classically trained violinist for her father and a similarly trained vocalist as her mother. The loss of her mother to death at age twelve irrecoverably altered her life for good and ill. It likely played a key role in solidifying her life direction as her mother wielded an enormous influence over her formative years playing and singing. Her input likely contributed to her musical predilections as well.
She has worked recently performing 60’s and 70’s music but The Way Up marks a departure from that. The alternative and even New Wav-ish leanings of the songs is clear from the first track. “The Magic Word” is clever and hard-hitting. Folger takes the instruments and writing into almost pure industrial territory without sacrificing its musicality. Melody, even primitive, is a near constant throughout The Way Up.
Other songs emphasize it more strongly. Her vocal melody for the second track “Through the Haze” carries willing listeners off into another dimension and the appropriately twisty, bendy trajectory the music takes complements her voice. “Rag Doll” maintains a furious pace that Banerjee matches at every step and the aforementioned New Wavy inclinations surface in a strong way. There is never a deliberate retro vibe, however, and the raw production keeps the songs in your face without ever overwhelming listeners.
“Don’t Look Down” is one of The Way Up’s more interesting tracks. She moves outside the album’s focus thus far for a vamped up funky interlude led, as always, by the guitar. It is successful by any measure and you can hear Banerjee’s obvious relish singing this song. Do not pass this one by. “Deep Water” is probably the album’s darkest moment, definitely musically, and the dramatics conjured here never sound forced. Many listeners will connect with this song and, despite its intense mood, it is never a despairing listen.
“Bright Light” is an especially emphatic final curtain. Banerjee and Folger wheel out the bulk of their musical firepower for a last time but the goal is not one last salvo. It’s more a summation of sorts and a glimpse towards the future. This is a project that clearly has the legs for multiple releases rather than a memorable one-off; Banerjee and Folger work well together. It isn’t festive in any way, but The Way Up is a satisfying listening experience from first song through the last and has impressive lyrical depth as well.