Album Review: Katie Noonan - Songbook (2013 LP)

Katie Noonan is one of the most recognisable voices to come out of the Brisbane Music scene. Her new record Songbook is a reinvention of songs from her entire back catalogue, including songs from her days with band george, her trio Elixer, her solo material as well as Katie Noonan and the Captains. Taking things back to a more acoustic vibe, each reinvention features lush string arrangements and with added piano.

The album opens with the stunning “Quiet Day” which immediately summarizes the tone that this album will take. It is simply stated with piano accompaniment and sparse strings in the climax points.

“Breathe In Now” has already been reinvented in its lifetime. Originally from her days with george, the song reemerged on Katie’s solo album and has been renewed once again for this intimate album. Each version tells a different story, and it is fascinating to have heard three different interpretations of the song over the years. This new version is certainly more reserved and lyrical than those that came before, which makes it even more stunning. Katie’s vocals are so pure and it gives it an effortless feel to not only this song, but each on the album.

“Tip of Memory” showcases the beautiful balance between piano and strings. The cello provides a lyrical bassline that is unmatched on any other instrument, while the upper strings provide beautiful counter melodies that respond to the vocals. On the back end of the song, it loses all beauty and takes on an edgy rawness, with the cello and strings supporting the change in feel of the piece, before returning to the ethereal nature of the opening. This is such a profound moment in the album and maybe the first moment where the serene nature created is broken. This is by far my favourite track of the album.

“Untitled” is a beautiful piano solo with unexpected chord changes and progressions that quite literally music to your ears. This leads into “Time” which is another stunning example of Katie’s amazing vocals. The leaps up into the higher register are breathtaking and quite remarkably unique.

The album comes to a close with “My Own Time” a ballad of a more straightforward nature. In saying this, it again is beautifully orchestrated and simply stated. Like the rest of the album it is another example of the signer in complete control of her vocals.

What makes this album something truly special is how effortless these sparse yet lush arrangements are for the singer. They showcase her voice to its fullest and best. Accompanying the album is a book of sheet music, which celebrates the new arrangements and showcases them for all to see, and more importantly, perform.

Katie Noonan herself states: "This is a selection of songs from the last 15 years of my life. It has been really interesting going through these works and seeing my evolution as a musician and my journey from a girl to a young woman through to a wife and mother." Having listened to her complete catalogue, this is such a true statement of what this record is about, and I couldn’t have summed it up any other way.

Review Score: 9.2 out of 10