Singer-songwriter Odessa performs for Parents’ Weekend

by Joyce Lee | 5/9/16 4:57pm

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Odessa’s acoustic style provided a great vibe for First-Year Parents’ Weekend.

Odessa, a folk and alternative singer-songwriter and instrumentalist who used to play backup for groups such as Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, played on Collis Patio Saturday evening for the First-Year Family Weekend, bringing her Los Angeles-based alternative music to Dartmouth. Lauren Mendelsohn ’19, who brought her own unique acoustic sound to her songs, opened for Odessa. Using her high pitched vocals and whimsical lyricism, Mendelsohn set the tone for the rest of Odessa’s stage.

Mendelsohn first heard about the opportunity to perform from a friend on the programming board. Although she has been writing songs for a long time, this was her first time performing in this kind of venue.

“It was really fun,” Mendelsohn said. “I really enjoyed meeting [Odessa].”

With only a guitar, Odessa opened with “My Match,” a sweetly crooning song that exhibited the purer side of her vocals. Keen and almost haunting, the simplicity of her acoustic performance accentuated its transcendence, along with her white dress lit by a violet stagelight. Much of Odessa’s song featured her signature high-pitched vocals, emphasized by an echoing sound system which swept over the small patio.

Following “My Match,” Odessa sang “Love Alone” — a darker, bluesy song that continued Odessa’s use of refrain and a narrative voice calling out to a loved one. The object of this song, unlike the warm, loving figure of the prior melody, is one who leaves her, thus solidifying the intensely personal nature of her lyrics. The darker tone of this song also displays the range of Odessa’s compositions — from the pure, ephemeral “My Match” to the grittier undertone of “Love Alone” that wraps around Odessa’s higher vocals.

Odessa continued her set with other songs from her repertoire, including “Thunder,” which displayed a kind of natural lyricism and imagery that showed Odessa’s impressive grasp on language and melody. Despite — or perhaps, because of — a gentle nature of her music, Odessa managed to convey the quieter nature of thunder that resonated with the listener.

Odessa wrapped up her performance with “I Will Be There,” arguably the song that put her on the map after its use in a Subaru commercial in 2014. With its comforting lyrics and lilting melody, the song helped to cap the almost dream-like concert.

Regina Yan ’19, who attended the concert, said that she had heard Odessa’s music before and that she was excited to find out that she was performing and that Mendelsohn, her friend, would be opening for her.

“She has a very stripped back acoustic sound with an indie vibe,” Yan said. “She’s really relaxing to listen to, and it brings up good memories, because I figure skated to one of songs.”

Yan added that Odessa sounds better in person than on recordings because of her interesting performance quality.

“[‘Hummed Low’] has interesting rhythmic beats to it that you can’t tell over an audio recording, but seeing her in person, it was so cool to see her manipulate the guitar in a way to really deliver those beats,” Yan said.

Odessa’s concert is a part of the Programming Board Coffee House Concert series, said Assistant Programming Board concert chair Mary Clare Seeman ’18. Odessa had been on an initial list of up-and-coming artists that the Programming Board had wanted to feature, but had been unavailable in the winter.

“Odessa is just one of those artists we all really liked and thought would be a great choice,” Seeman said. “She has a great vibe, and her music provides an atmosphere that’s a good way to relax after a big weekend like Family Weekend, which is sort of the goal of the Coffee House Concerts.”