Top Hats and Knives: Review of My Own Berlin by Callison Stratton

Top Hats and Knives: Review of My Own Berlin by Callison Stratton


Nicholas Collins Reviews Callison Stratton‘s song “My Own Berlin”.

My Own Berlin

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Copyright 2008 Callison Stratton, All Rights Reserved.

My Own Berlin,is a rare type of song where excellent songwriting and an accomplished singer combine to create something of true beauty. While the imagery used in the song is far from complex, the simplicity in this case serves as a strength, each line cutting deeper into the core of a mosaic of wistful images. Each line takes the form of a wish, collectively these wishes, the tonality of Callison’s voice, and the quiet acoustic guitar combine to form what appears to be a person, three dimensional and flawed. Though it may not have been the artist’s intent, there is a clear picture of the person behind the microphone, and she is vulnerable and hurt, and to see such humanity and truth in a song is inspring., Songs like these can be revisited again and again. Callison forms the musical equivalent of Norman Rockwell, deftly using lyrical brush strokes to create in this listeners mind, a picture of a quiet and lonely field, where picnickers sit smiling and drinking lemonade, oblivious to the gathering clouds on the horizon.


Ruined metaphorical picnics aside, I don’t feel sad or depressed while listening, though the potential is certainly there for this to be a sad song. The feeling that the song inspires in me is one of quiet contemplativeness, which is why the presence of a heavy-handed guitar in later verses always comes as something of a shock, knocking me out of the emotional canvas that she is otherwise painting on so delicately.


The faults of this song can mostly be found in it’s production. The balancing of the vocal track is especially suspect, a trait that carries through the rest of Callison’s submissions. Occasionally, this results in being forcefully removed from the songs, which in an album that relies so heavily its simple and emotional resonance can be problematic. However, in a time where the trend is to overproduce, it is nice to see something that breaks the mold, yet still sounds more or less how I would imagine it should. This seeming lack of post-production seems to create a sound that is more raw and honest, and Callison’s skill as a vocalist is more than enough to overcome this issue. This creates a sound that is more flawed, true, but ultimately more human as a result. But humanity is not something that is necessarily lost in production, and while in the mean time I’ll be happy to listen while tapping on the steering wheel, imagining myself drinking lemonade on a checkered blanket in an idyllic field somewhere, a small part of me will be wishing I could hear this album with a little more polish.

Copyright 2009 Nicholas Collins, All Rights Reserved.