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“FIGURE EIGHTS” by Nicole Saphos Band

By allenpetersonreviews Dec 25, 2022

Saphos is a LA native who relocated to Philadelphia and creates intellectually inclined pop music without regard for the trends.

While the quirky brilliance of Fiona Apple’s poetry and the playful sweetness of Ben Folds may come through in Saphos’ eccentric singing, Saphos’ otherness comes off as pleasantly unforced and innately melodic.

The double bass, which Saphos plays expertly and on multiple instruments, serves as the foundation for her tenacious melodies. The opening track, “Spend A Little Time,” an alluringly alt-pop-jazz fusion about the redemptive power of human attention, and the song “Stoic Companion,” which explores the uncertainties of being in a relationship with a human statue incapable of expressing vulnerablility, do, despite her disinterest in consistent tempos, pay homage to tradition.

A creative adaptation of Emily Pauline Johnson’s poem “Fire-Flowers” is “And Only”. This lighthearted Vulfpeckian cut offers the profound source material the well-deservedly ambitious scope through constantly shifting and cunning patterns. “Figure Eights”, unsurprisingly, focuses on Saphos‘ “lifelong propensity for patterns”. These amorphisms have minimal foundation despite being patterned. For instance, “Tryin’ To Be” forgoes conventional songs structures to produce an upbeat and melodic track that abruptly shifts to an instrumental hard rock section driven by electric guitar and loud percussion.

Though it lasts less than a minute, the brief “Thoughts Over You” is the collection’s most well-rounded song’ Coherence is, of course, only occasionally desired, particularly in alt-pop, a genre Saphos is adept at. These songs have a lot to be admired, besides the warm and lavish production. With the fervent passion of an understudy in a Broadway musical trying to prove themselves to the world, they bounced between fashionably hip executions and more jovial proclamation. The uplifting sentiments of “My Intention” and the enduringly endearing “More” properly support these oscillation.

Saphos is pictured seated in a chair and gazing over her shoulder on the album cover by photographer Jordana Rubenstein-Edberg. This appropriate for an album where the artist draws inspiration from her history. If you look closely, you can see that she is sporting protective ice skates as a tribute to the memories she had of “ice skating” on every carpeted surface of her childhood house in the 1900s.

“Figure Eights” is a distinctively unconventional piece of music that takes the listener on a wavering journey through the contradictory emotions of joy and sorrow that come from looking back at the past.

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