Music Reviews

Amina Shareef Ali In the Dark (Awake of Course)

(Self-Released) Rating - 7/10

Amina Shareef Ali's newest release, In the Dark (Awake of Course), is an unexpected folk record. With the charming (if occasionally discordant) rawness of a demo tape or found recording, Ali takes us on a journey of loss, love, and nostalgia (sure, all the cliches!), but with tongue planted firmly in cheek. By the third track, it's clear Ali has wit, and a dark sense of humor to boot. I Came Back to Life is delightfully macabre, with joyful handclaps bouncing along with the most ominous lyrics, dissolving into a cleverly turned phrase: "I think you'll love the joke, and if you think that hurts, try being the butt of it."  It isn't the first time I caught myself smirking smugly while listening to this record. Ali has a knack for turning phrases inside out ("Either you go to the trouble, else the trouble comes to you"). Simple messages delivered mercilessly. It's the few experimental pit stops that make the album a bit incohesive. Some diversions from the form are more successful than others: Ali's warbling Oberst-like vocals are well suited for the crooner Butcher Paper Heart, but the synth-pop of the closing number Smitten feels out of place on this otherwise strong record. Still, the messily honest lyricism is well worth indulging some exploration.