By: Vandal Truong
Assorted stories of angst loneliness, and bittersweet joy unfold on the folksy rock debut by Monica Ott, Only Human (self-released, 2009). Whether saying goodbye to a loved one getting older in "The Brave One" or ushering out a lover "World According to You", Ott is an earnest and powerful vocalist.
In a musical landscape currently crowded with emo/pop bands vying for attention, it's nice to listen to someone without gimmicks. Ott's song, "The Way We Used To Be" is also featured on the New York City Songwriter's Circle compilation, a nationally released album of songs by New York area singer/songwriters. The "Circle" is a bi-monthly show in various lower Manhattan venues that showcases artists such as Norah Jones, Gavin DeGraw, and Jesse Harris.
Ott's sense of story is most vivid on the song "Perfect Circle." The narrator ponders, "And it's hard to make a life out of nothing/Unless you have what we can't explain." Her voice, particularly her alto, shines on tracks like "The Way We Used To Be," but there is a bit of sameness throughout the ten-song collection. However, Ott's Dar Williams-style crooning and melodies are enough to keep the listener intrigued to the next song. Working with Joe Bonadio, who also produced Martin Sexton and Marc Cohn, Monica Ott has crafted a special album and a very personal sound.