Everything about Melissa Black’s five-song EP The Eden Project shouts, ‘Serious artist!’ Much like other singer/songwriters, like Tori Amos (from back in the day), Black sings and plays piano on songs about heavy subjects.
The project concludes with its most ominous track, “Red Blood Moon.” Black sings it over a moody melody. These piano chords play off string sounds. There is also acoustic and electric guitar on this recording. It finds Black describing an unusually dangerous night. One is not sure precisely what Black is singing about with it. Instead, she’s creating a mood that may well apply to many different situations. It’s the sort of backing track we’ve come to expect from Nick Cave. However, Black is a far prettier vocalist than Cave. Furthermore, most singers sing prettier than Cave. Cave, to put it bluntly, is just not all about coming off as pretty. Black, on the other hand, is a little like a sexy detective in the movies. She sounds wonderful, even while surrounded by trouble.
The album opens with one titled “Rainbow.” Black it to a plunking piano part. Although rainbows are usually positive symbols, Black sings here – it appears – about a negative relationship. The song speaks of how she’s “wearing thin.” In addition to the track’s prominent piano part, there is also a nice guitar solo. It’s not clear why Black chose “Rainbow” for this song’s title. Then again, spiritual markers are all over the project. “Fallen Angel” and “Eden” are also a few more of the album’s religiously associated song titles.
The aforementioned “Fallen Angel” adds backing vocals to Black’s usual piano/vocal mixture. For “Eden,” Black sings about someone on the coastline of Eden. This is another track that mixes piano with string sounds. When she sings, “The devil is whispering,” it’s clear there is a spiritual battle going on somewhere. Black does not sing explicitly religious songs (at least this doesn’t seem to be the case), but she’s quick to draw analogies based upon religious language.
For better or worse, Black can be a little vague with her song lyrics. She’s obviously inspired by personal experiences, but the pictures she paints suggest situations, rather than detailing them. This is great for those that choose to make these songs their own. One can listen to these five songs and personalize them to whatever’s going on in one’s life at the time. At the same time, though, inquiring minds may want to know specifically what Melissa Black is singing about. This curiosity won’t likely be satisfied for most folks; that’s just the way Black wants it.
Melissa is a strong female voice, which is something today’s music scene just doesn’t have enough of right now. She hearkens back to the singer/songwriters of yesteryear. While not as pointedly romantic as, say, Carole King, Black doesn’t sound like the kind of artist that takes any crap from anybody. Listening to this album will cause you to conjure up thoughts and images – possibly spiritual, or not. While the word ‘Eden’ is in the album’s title, the tone sets for this project sure sounds like she’s a long way from the Garden of Eden. So, even though it’s not especially Edenic, it’s nevertheless quite good.