It’s easy to shelve Brooke D as just another one-person folk act. But San Jose native/San Francisco resident, Brooke Dabalos, shucks the stereotype, at every turn. Her effortless, musical meanderings touch flavors of stripped-down soul and warm pop, with surreptitious hints of vocal jazz and flair that can leave listeners feeling nothing short of entranced. Her creative process draws on just about everything; from her audio-looping effects pedals to the glottal sounds of her own beat-boxing voice. The entire display is just her playground, and after 6 releases, the prolific Brooke D. goes about her latest release, “As We Pictured,” with little difference.
As the set on “As We Pictured” begins with the playful, “Ants and Bees,” the listener can almost hear Brooke D smile as she meanders through the onomatopoetic buzzing of her bees and her vocal impression of a slide trombone. An anthropomorphic tale of the insects’ revenge is told exclusively through a cappella and snaps, an approach that Dabalos has honed throughout her last few releases. In fact, Brooke D. all but abandons her piano/voice origins, save for the simple keyboard bass lines on the one-sided conversation of “Not As It Seems” and the fictional reminiscences of “Painters.” Ironically, the two tracks are most closely related to the album’s namesake, which elucidates the illusions and consequent truths relationships can render.
But the slow, a cappella darkness of “Long Road” arguably reveals Dabalos’s most potent display as a lyricist and vocal artist, showing a bald-faced honesty to go along with the narrator’s disillusionment and a low-key musical template to match. The sultry yet uptempo “Don’t” shows her range as a composer, as she soulfully navigates key changes and mood shifts with the help of creative vocal crafting to build an undeniably dance-able track. The gorgeous, poetic pace of “How I Feel” wraps up the collection, as Dabalos lays down, then traverses, a thick, glistening, vocal soundscape.
And it all seems to fall in to place on “As We Pictured” with Brooke D. finding a balance with her talents. Her minimalist use of keyboards and thick layering of vocals plays nicely with the edginess of her beat -boxing. Dabalos finds a formula of evenness and pliability about her musical talents, all the while placing lyrical text which is cerebral and poetic. The effort marks as Brooke D’s best yet, as she throws up sound like she’s building a ineffable structure, only to unabashedly invite us in.
Hear “As We Pictured” and the rest of Brooke D’s discography at bandcamp.