Something telling of the local music scene revealed itself last year when EQX was hosting the final round of its annual Battle of the Bands at the then-Jupiter Hall. As bands jockeyed for votes to earn the opening set of Pearlpalooza 2018, there appeared to be a contest of congeniality between Bendt and El Modernist. While El Modernist’s Will Han offered everyone to send songs for his massive “We Are Albany NY” playlist on Spotify, Bendt walked out on stage wearing t-shirts of various local bands, a Girl Blue shirt in particular moderator Jeff Mo’rad took note at the end.
“If we were only lucky enough to have Girl Blue,” he said in a nod of admiration. Within an amicable music scene, Arielle O’Keefe has leveled up. She’s been placed upon the proverbial pedestal, yet far from allusive to audiences wishing to catch her perform. She’s in the local calendar on a near-weekly basis, or so it seems, hitting stages at Savoy Taproom, The Hollow or Caffé Lena. Often, as of late, she’s been alone and far-removed from the studio produced sound of her 2016 release “I Am Not a Star.” And, in this environment, audiences consume her music at its best.
Girl Blue recently dropped “Home Movies,” a live solo EP featuring six songs local audiences will find familiar; if not from the two tracks present on “I Am Not a Star,” then from her regular appearances in town. She describes it as a “scary” experience to perform solo, but she states from her blog that it gives her a chance to show how much she has grown.
O’Keefe’s solo acts don’t only showcase her intimate lyrics, but it enables audiences to hear her voice. She possesses a distinct singing voice that flows from conversation to something of a songbird as it flutters in range. The title track is a soft lullaby. It’s to reinforce the fact that, if you were expecting “I Am Not a Star,” then you’re in for something different. There are refreshing takes on “Because It Moves Me” and “Fire Under Water,” for those familiar with her last EP.
“IDK” is reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. Her voice can be as haunting as Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah.” It’s not to say both songs share a similar structure. The oft-covered Leonard Cohen song was best captured by the late artist. But, this and each of the songs that appear on “Home Movies” sound like they were recorded within the same session featured on Buckley’s 1994 release “Grace.” Girl Blue’s songs are just as revealing, and at times, just as moving.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.