Though she gained fame from her stint on American Idol last year, Elise Testone is not new to the world of music. The New Jersey native grew up in a musical family and began vocal lessons at a young age, eventually earning a degree in music from Coastal Carolina University. She also had a major role in nearly every aspect of her latest record, In This Life, even mixing and producing it herself.
In This Life combines elements of blues, funk and classical pop, and together showcases the singer’s husky, soulful vocals. The opening track, which shares its name with the record, begins with Testone singing a cappella, eventually building up to include layered drums, a funky bassline, and bells that sound like a cash register. This is the unique thing about the LP: Testone takes time to explore and experiment, and the result is music that sounds natural and effortlessly illustrates her talent.
Softer songs are gems on the disc, such as “I Will Not Break.” This particular track includes an arrangement of keys, strings and soft percussion that meld together to create a relaxing, dream-like ambiance. These are Testone’s strong points, along with heavily influenced blues tracks like “Lucky Day,” which features a classical guitar solo before ending with bravado, showing off Testone’s range.
There are a couple songs on the record that are country pop ballads, such as “What I Need,” which feel a bit out of place compared to the rest of the tracklist. “Ease My Mind” closes out the album, but is unfortunately forgettable. It would have been nice to see In This Life end as strongly as it had begun. Regardless, this record is a decent debut, and is satisfying nonetheless.
In A Word: Pleasant