Review Rewind: Kristin Allen-Zito-The Atlas
1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.
December 2010: “Armed with a beautiful voice and a gift for melodies, Kristin Allen-Zito’s latest release, The Atlas on Clickpop Records is one of the most stunning pieces of music ever released by a local artist.”
The Atlas by Kristin Allen-Zito is what I consider one of my first dates with the Bellingham music scene. Meeting this album came at exactly the right time and I don’t think I’d be doing any of the things I currently am if I hadn’t connected with this album and spent many rainy afternoons with it. I’m almost regretting nominating myself to review this album because if square peg round holed myself into every single one of these songs. Sorry for stealing your songs Kristin.
Lyrical content is the clear focus of the album, made much easier by well-produced vocals (à la Paul Turpin at Clickpop) as evident in the first track sharing a title with the album, The Atlas. As she sings, “we are needle and thread/our stories are globes spinning over our heads” she is setting groundwork for her evocative song writing throughout the rest of the album. The songs all feel written from a very personal place, but so relatable for anyone who has gone through a transitional period, reflecting on ideas of home and love. It would be impossible not to mention “Pedaling my Bike” as the anchor for the particular heart strings that are tugged in it’s striking description of returning home, especially if you call somewhere like Bellingham home.
The instrumentation throughout the album does nothing but engage with the vocals and lyrics. There is an ornamental quality to many of the standout parts; the slide guitar in “Pedaling my Bike”, the string plucking in “Utah,” and the building brass in “I Hope my Heart Never Stops.” All of these additional roles, serving in unison to accentuate the already present depth within the songs are provided by Bellingham locals for the most part, making it that much more fun of a listen.
I haven’t made a love themed mix CD without “Pushups” as a central track since hearing it. I haven’t made a break-up mix CD without “Just Hungry.” That is to say, I could talk at length about every one of these songs. But I’ll end with the fact that no matter how raw the feelings are in this album, Kristin can still manage to slip in a crowd pleaser at the end, in which doomed love is saved by the fact that she will “still kiss your balls/on the underside of heaven.” That is love.
The Atlas marks the beginning of my journey in the Bellingham music scene. It took me down the rabbit hole of its collaborators; Jenni Potts, Sarah Jerns, Jordan Rain, Michael Harris, just to name a few. It gave me a lesson in the interconnectedness of the local scene and how impossibly special it is. Giving this album a thorough re-listen, also while buried in 15 years of What’s Up! issues, I have realized that the record label, fleeting in the present day local scene, was so palpable in this album. This album is so clearly Kristin Allen-Zito, even better seen when adorned by many noteworthy locals.