By Liam Prost
The track “Big Volcano, Small Town” is a strong standout on Charlotte Cornfield’s sophomore release Future Snowbird for several reasons, not the least of which is that she has been playing it live since before the release of her first record Two Horses (2011) and has had plenty of time for her delivery to develop. It’s a quippy, talky, demi-romantic ballad about a brief flirtation, and despite its simplicity, it rings truer than pretty much anything else on this otherwise snappy new record. Much of Cornfield’s charm and style are retained here. The lyrics are still sharp, witty and rife with mildly nerdy literary references to texts like Lord of the Flies or The Chronicles of Narnia. Her Dylan-esque loose, often unapologetically off-pitch delivery is also intact, almost daring critics to judge it for being amateurish rather than providing a Tuesday night open mic authenticity.
Future Snowbird is substantially more listener friendly than her debut, with clean and precise instrumentation that accents her vocal melodies, and instrumental breaks with enough personality to keep listeners entertained where they once felt silly like in the almost my-first-guitar-solo from Two Horses single “All of the Pretty Mistakes.” Cornfield certainly took all of the right notes musically from her first release, and the result is some compelling musical moments that begin right with the opening upstrum of “Aslan.” But it seems that Cornfield mistook her vulnerability and directness as a songwriter as naiveté, and the result is a series of substantially more obfuscatory songs that only seem more grown-up because they are less accessible. There are some effective lyrical devices to be sure, such as the smile-inducing “all alone, just me and my doubt” from the Elliot Smith-reminiscent “Scots Line,” but her narratives just don’t land nearly as hard as she proves herself capable of on her older cuts and “Big Volcano, Small Town.” Charlotte Cornfield is often pointed to as being on the verge of a major success. Future Snowbird is not that record, but that doesn’t stop it from being a charming and breezy rung in the ladder to her inevitable fame and fortune.Charlotte Cornfield, Future Snowbird