Local Portland singer-songwriter Karyn Ann’s debut EP, “Accept Uncertainty”, is a gem of an acoustic soul record, featuring strong, heartfelt performances and classic, tell-it-like-it-is songwriting. If you’d like to listen to it while reading this review, you can stream it here (I recommend it!).
Ann has been playing around town for a few years now, honing her own brand of acoustic music that combines jazz, soul, motown and even a little bluegrass. “Accept Uncertainty” gives voice to each of these facets of Ann’s musical persona, utilizing a very specific and intentional aesthetic for each track. From the playful banjo in “Heartful Soul” to the contemplative mandolin in “Painted Hills”, the different arrangement choices underscore the different moods of each song.
“Floors”, the first track on the EP, showcases not only Ann’s soulful vocal style but also highlights her brilliant songwriting skills, with the song’s refrain leading into a startling dynamic change that underlines the emotion of the chorus line, “I can’t keep on letting you walk all over my floors”. The song also features a fine guitar solo, which, just as it reaches its apex, finds itself in the midst of the same dynamic shift as the chorus, uniting the song in its musical purpose.
The retro-swing tune “Love of My Own” is a lyrical gem, beautifully expressing the desire to break through all the confusion surrounding love handed down by the previous generation and just experience it as it was meant to be. Lines like “I feel tainted, almost robbed, of what I don’t know how to feel” are heartbreaking, but the whole tune is delivered in such an upbeat manner it’s hard not to catch the hope in it.
“Painted Hills” shows off a different side of Ann’s voice, where she dons a less soulful and more indie-pop approach to her delivery, bringing to mind artists like Feist and even maybe a little Sara Bareilles.
“Accept Uncertainty” is an obvious testimony to Ann’s gifts as a vocalist, but upon repeat listens also reveals her to be a skilled, emotive songwriter with an ear for good production. Join the club, check out “Accept Uncertainty”, and I promise you’ll soon find yourself singing along with the subtle backing vocals in “Heartful Soul” and dancing along to the summery groove of “I Ain’t” like you’ve been listening to these songs your whole life.