Change is exactly what the doctor ordered for Dot Allison and her new release, Room 7 1/2. This Scottish songstress has made a major departure from her usual electronic sound that can be heard with her previous band, One Dove, and her solo albums. This album has a stripped-down, sentimental sound and is more traditionally song-oriented with pop song structures (verse chorus verse), rather than repetitive dance beats with vocals on top. When an artist changes their sound, it’s not always a good move. Remember when Bob Dylan went electric?
Room 7 ½ is definitely a soothing, toned-down album to settle down in a cozy chair and listen to. The chill of this album almost makes the listener lose interest if it wasn’t for the Scottish folklore themes that conjure up images of enchanted forests, lush greens, and tall gardens. This album has nice symphonic swells but sometimes, the vocals don’t match the musical intensity, such as “Portrait of the Sun” when the music picks up the rhythm and Dot’s vocals stay long-winded and droning.
“Cry” is a stand out of the album due to its sultry and seductive vocals reminiscent of Tori Amos and Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.” “Jonny Villain” is a dandy ole’ song with cool guitar riffs and a folky feel, Johnny Cash-style. The lyrics express sympathy for a criminal, “His father was estranged his disappearance feigned, Jonny had to fend for his own longevity, So he robbed those old women just to pay his way, Poor little Jonny Villain…”
“I Wanna Break Your Heart” is another stand out that is one of the few upbeat songs on the album to wake you up from your dreamy slumber. It is also one of the two songs that feature male vocals which add a nice tenor-soprano vocal contrast. Dot’s very high-pitched vocals cause ear fatigue after a few songs. Dot is holding back on this album and the listener is left wanting more. A raw, punchy voice would be nice. Maybe she should start smoking?
The bass is very weak on most songs and the low frequency range is lacking. Dot’s high-pitched voice may be well-suited over dance beats, but for soulful and dreamy ballads, not so much. Overall, Dot has made a big transition to easy listening, stripped-down, folk-influenced songs in Room 7 1/2. It is an intriguing but lackluster album. Maybe she should stick to electronica?