Alina Simone: 'Half My Kingdom'
Everyone Is Crying Out to Me, Beware, the second album from Ukrainian-born singer-songwriter Alina Simone, is utterly haunting. With bare-bones arrangements and Simone's powerful, poignant vocals at the forefront, the record burns through a collection of songs by Siberian punk-folk singer, Yanka Dyagileva, with cathartic fervor. Though the lyrics are in Russian, the emotions are raw and easily felt.
Simone's voice possesses a strained tone that evokes a singer who's suffering, always on the verge of tears. This emotional immediacy wrenches through each track, perhaps most urgently on the album's opener, "Half My Kingdom." Against a gain-heavy guitar and a single trumpet, Simone half-whispers a refrain that translates to "I surrender the other half of my kingdom." Simone says she thinks "the narrator is turning her back on the world, almost carelessly, and slipping away."
Other highlights on the album are "From Great Knowledge" — which erupts with Simone's voice in epic form — and the more upbeat, "My Sadness Is Luminous," featuring a smooth string accompaniment.
Simone was born in Kharkov, Ukraine (then the Soviet Union) to Russian parents, but came to the U.S. when she was one. She grew up outside of Boston. Simone says her background and the almost nomadic life she has lived have shaped her music immensely (her 2007 debut album was appropriately titled Placelessness). Everyone Is Crying Out to Me is a vehicle for Simone's own rediscovery of the culture she left behind, as well as a way for her to share that culture with Americans who have no understanding or knowledge of it.
"I wanted to make this album for two main reasons," Simone explains. "One, It was a major challenge for me. I left Russian with my family when I was only one so I had to really fight hard to learn how to sing these songs and improve my pronunciation to a point where I could perform and record them. Two, I wanted to introduce American indie rock lovers to Yanka's music in hopes that they will seek out the original recordings and go on to learn more about Russian music and perhaps even, Russian culture."
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