Heather Duby
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Heather Duby

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The best kept secret in music


"All Music Guide"

Seattle songbird Heather Duby has surely found her voice this time, with Come Across the River. Following up 1999's Post to Wire and 2001's electronic album Elemental, Duby dispels the uncertainty and preconceptions of those two records with a breathless kind of confidence as she approaches 30. The saying that the third time's a charm proves true here; she and producer Steve Fisk work with a template of electronic samples, pianos, and strings for an organic arrangement. The simplistic approach accentuates Duby's ethereal vocal style all the more, making Come Across the River her most daring set of songs. From the childlike loveliness of "Golden Syrup," to the vaudevillian "The Rare Vavoom," Duby's concentration on each individual song reflects her own personal and professional growth. Emotion is loaded, however Duby's not exclusively concerned with only feeling. A literary impression, whether it be romantic or humanistic or both, "Make Me Insomnia" and "Providence" are solid indications that Duby has truly found her place. Come Across the River metaphorically supports Heather Duby's rise beyond idealized expectations not only of critics, but of herself. She's made one of the finest albums of her career. — MacKenzie Wilson - MacKenzie Wilson

"The Stranger"

(Graceland) Since her 1999 release Post to Wire, Seattle-based singer Heather Duby has been compared to the triphop coolness of Beth Orton and the ethereal goth queen Siouxie Sioux. Her deft mix of electronic beats and icy-cool vocals are unrivaled in these parts, as no one else quite manages to blend the two elements as effortlessly and flawlessly. Duby's third and latest album, Come Across the River, has been released on Sonic Boom Recordings and showcases the singer coming into her own with a dark collection of songs that portray more emotion than her past efforts. Duby rivals Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval with her heady-yet-melting vocals as a wallowy guitar accompaniment flows thickly beneath tambourine tinkle. Chimerical and intense, Come Across the River, is a fine album that finds Duby, once again, standing unrivaled. KATHLEEN WILSON - Kathleen Wilson

"Seattle Weekly"

Come Across the River (Sonic Boom), Seattle singer-songwriter Heather Duby’s latest album, is a new release in more than one way. Her 1999 Sub Pop debut, Post to Wire, plaintively mixed electro atmosphere with an emotional pop sensibility, commanding the attention of local and national critics and earning Duby a small but rabid legion of fans. Shows at various Seattle venues—including a few where Duby clings to the Ms. Pac-Man machine for dear life between sets (her love for the game "verges on autism")—cemented her reputation as a husky-voiced, lyrically moody Goth-pop starling the Northwest could call its own (with many such acts, including Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, having gone national a decade before). But if hyphenated labels and artist comparisons could sum up Duby's sound, River wouldn't be the achievement it is: a much more intimate self-portrait from an artist on the outgoing end of some serious turmoil.
"I really wanted to do something more tangible. I wanted to try my hand at writing solid compositions," Duby says from her Seattle home. "I think that's still something I'm working on, but I had more success with Come Across the River." Despite the doom-and-gloom sensation you might receive from her music, Duby comes across as an upbeat individual. Nonetheless, the implied violence of lyrics like "She's touched like a deadly live wire/You're standing in water, it would seem" ("Stamped Out") has to come from somewhere. When asked whether Seattle inspires such ominous songwriting, Duby lets Rain City off the hook. "I don't really think the darkness in my music has anything really to do with this city," she assures me. "That's something that exists in me—it's not from some external, environmental factor. I've had a lot of loss over the last few years, easily the hardest three years of my life. That's why it's a sad record; it was a release." Familial discord and interpersonal hardship aside, Duby also experienced an uninvited taste of mortality thanks to a monster case of tonsillitis, which threatened her health—and her voice—but ultimately failed to leave lasting effects.
"I have kind of a love-hate [relationship] with performing," she says. "I do have stage fright." Many performers favor small, intimate venues for this reason. Duby goes the other way: "I seem to get more nervous in a smaller room. "Bigger rooms feel like you're less important and maybe people won't really notice you anyway, but small rooms are just more intense, which I think is better for the stuff I write, but can be a lot more nerve-wracking."
THOUGH THE MAJORITY of the production on River (by Duby, bandmates Bo Gilliland and Erik Akre, and Pigeonhed mastermind Steve Fisk) is big-room ready—the driving piano-drums-cello backdrop and take-charge beats of opener "Make Me Some Insomnia" or the darkly flowing current of "Stamped Out"—certain tracks take up very little sonic space. "Auto Immune," for example, is a delicate art song, with piano and cello following Duby's spry voice in lockstep, tracing out a single thread of melody instead of the riveting harmonies she develops on "Insomnia." Creating a cabaret of the mind, "The Rare Vavoom" recalls early, sinister Sarah McLachlan (e.g., "Black" from Solace), at once seductive, playful, and morally defeated, as when Duby riffs on the inconstancy of man: "'Cause if you ever have changed your mind/ You know it's better to stay resigned/I've made my offer for the last time/Don't look for me when you've changed your mind." After the affectionate lullaby of "Your Blue Shoes" (complete with chirping crickets), "Providence" introduces an unnamed female character. "Dear Providence, please smile," she croons over an urgent snare drum-bass push. "On her a while/Never was one to lay blame/Until they took her from me." If it's reading too much into the song to imagine the one in need of salvation is Duby herself, it'd be sweet to think the difficult path to this River has finally been smiled upon by some musical Providence that will be present Friday night. At the very least, Ms. Pac-Man awaits.
- Neil Schindler

"Impact Press"

• I liked this within one minute of the first song. Melodic hypnotizing female vocals joined by a steady droning piano and cello. Her vocals and even the music could be compared to Mazzy Star. Her lower register gives a dark feel to the vocal melodies with beautiful accompaniment of piano, strings, acoustic guitar and trumpet. "Providence" picks up the pace a little and her vocals sound more like Dido here. Even with comparisons made, Duby has discovered her own sound and originality musically and lyrically. (MP) Impact Press - MacKenzie Pause

"Portland Mercury"

Though it's been five years since its release, Heather Duby's 1999 debut, Post to Wire, is still a splendid listen. The Seattle songwriter used her remarkable voice to deliver intimate, haunting, and uncontrived ruminations on love and loss over layered, autumnal trip-pop arrangements co-written and shaped by Pacific Northwest über-producer Steve Fisk.

There is, however, a vague sense throughout the album that Duby's vocals, and the synth-based atmosphere supporting them, don't always work in tandem. It sounds like she sang over the songs rather than within them, thereby lessening their emotional impact, albeit to a small degree. It's an observation worth noting in the context of her phenomenal follow-up, Come Across the River, which suffers from no such dichotomy. On each of these 10 compositions, Duby's rich and resonant pipes fully engage with instrumentation far removed from the electronic gauze of its predecessor--piano, cello, live-sounding drums and guitar propel the action here, with digital flourishes wisely kept to a minimum. Maybe that organic approach is the key, but Duby also demonstrates a tremendous growth in confidence, and temerity.

The dark edge she hinted at in earlier songwriting is greatly magnified on Come Across the River. Opener "Make Me Some Insomnia" initiates a descent into human-frailty hell with a portentous piano melody and the melancholy bowing of cellist Lori Goldston, while Duby sings wearily, "To rely on anyone is just like sinking for the fun of it." That cynical gloom carries over to the watery Goth-Gaelic ballad "Stamped Out," and is most acute in the stunning "The Rare Vavoom," a cabaret noir replete with brushed drums and muted trumpet that paints a nocturnal image of Duby staring forlornly out the rain-tapped window.

The clouds may rarely part, but Come Across the River showcases the most beautiful and cathartic kind of sadness, as well as an artist who is truly coming into her own.
- Michael Alan Goldberg


Thank heaven for rebel girls. Few would have faulted Heather Duby for taking the road well-traveled by many of her post-Lilith Fair sisters and recording another set of gentle electro-pop for post-millennial dinner parties like her solo debut, 1999's Post to Wire. Perhaps sensing that one Dido is one too many, the Seattle-based singer/songwriter has gone the other way, peeling the plastic shrinkwrap off of her songs and trading in that peach JC Penney turtleneck for a battered, second-hand raincoat. Smart move, considering that Come Across the River's overcast ambience is as icy as Pacific Northwest rain in November.
Duby's music has visited the dark side before, but the murky tones of her second solo offering find her picking out a shady lot and building herself a little black bungalow there. Loss, absence and resignation are the recurring themes here, while piano, live drums and cello replace Post to Wire's breaks and beats, lending an appreciable gloom to the proceedings. Her husky voice still hangs in the air like your breath on a cool day, and it's even more compelling now that it isn't competing with so many electronic bells and whistles.

If art does indeed imitate life, it sounds like Duby spent the time between albums pulling herself out of one romantic car wreck after another. Darkness seems to have become her muse in the years since her debut, and although it probably wasn't much fun to experience, it has affected her songwriting and arranging skills positively. Tales of broken relationships and absent lovers dominate ...River's narratives -- in "The Big Dwindle", she literally cleans the emotional baggage out of the closet. Picture a plain-talking Tori Amos mentally vivisecting an affair gone bad while systematically devouring a glass of wine and a pack of Marlboro Lights and you're halfway there.

You may come for the downcast songs and melancholic arrangements, but you'll stay for Duby's otherworldly murmur of a voice. Much more understated here than on her earlier material, she keeps her voice to herself and barely raises it above a whisper, as if she's worried that someone in the next room might overhear. Fragile, vulnerable and powerfully feminine without ever sounding girly, its timbre hints at a deeper power that could topple buildings if sufficiently provoked.

By no means a miserable mope-rock wrist-slasher, Come Across the River is dark, rainy pop done very well. The clouds break every once in a while to let in a shaft of sunshine, but the album's best songs come from the cold, damp shadows. Duby's indie-pop is so chilly you'll want to grab a sweater.
- Steve English

"Collected Sounds"

I wanted to review this sooner, but couldn't stop playing it long enough to enthuse about it. This then is Heather Duby's follow-up to her acclaimed debut "Post to Wire". Her music is atmospheric and her songs are evocative.

Opener "Make me Some Insomnia" is deliciously sad and lovely. Duby's voice is angelic but still earthy. "To rely on anyone is like sinking for the fun of it" she sings.

"The Rare Vavoom" is a jazzy, elegant song. Duby sings of staying resigned in an endlessly weary voice.

"Providence" is a heart-rending song in which Duby sings "Now I can see that you're lost to me. This was a page out of time" The haunting melody will stick with you long after the songs stopped playing.

"Three Miles" is more upbeat than the other songs and it provides a good contrast.

The closing "Golden Syrup" has a whimsical chorus but is still a poignant song.

"Come Across the River" is sad, but so beautiful it will break anyone's heart
- Anna Maria Stjärnell

"Music Emissions"

Heather Duby has been around for a couple of years, with her Sub Pop debut Post To Wire coming out in 1999. After that she did a little experimenting with electronic music achieving mixed results. Now, she has left the folds of Sub Pop for an even more eclectic label called Sonic Boom. Famed indie producer, Steve Fisk takes her under his wing and creates some very interesting soundscapes on Come Across The River. Some tracks like "Your Blue Shoes" are so gentle and peaceful that they come across fragile and waif-like. Her voice has come a long way since Post To Wire, which was only released in 1999. Heather sounds so much more confident in herself now. The arrangements are clever and never overdone. Some tracks even have a Tom Waits feel to them like "The Big Dwindle", sort of jerky and vaudeville like. I think that the best song on this collection is the bleak but hope instilled "Providence". It shows what Duby is capable of. It's my feeling that Heather Duby should knock Beth Orton off of the indie diva pedestal and reign supreme. If you are a fan of female singer/songwriters then you have to find Come Across The River. It is a perfect example of some of the gems that get lost in that big sea of artists in the world. - Dennis Scanland

"Indie Workshop"

When you hear Heather Duby you know you’re listening to Heather Duby. She has a “sound”…a style that when I first heard her, following the release of her 1999 debut, Sub Pop’s Post to Wire, I was sure would be imitated and copied by many a female singer to come. The only true similar artist to come to mind though, is Dido. She is however a generic version…by no means a mirror image.

Duby has an eerie darkness in her songs that would never be found in anything resembling pop. Her music has thick orchestration, whether she’s leaning towards the electronic, as with Post to Wire, or going more organic like with her sophomore release, Come Across the River. She’s more easily grouped with artists such as PJ Harvey and Tori Amos both because of the eeriness and the personal, storytelling style of her lyrics. Like Harvey and Amos, her lyrics are almost theatrical, emotional and yet realistically sullen. Track three, The Rare Vavoom, brings indie darlings Denali to mind, and again the description of theatrical fits.

Duby has changed since her debut though. While Post to Wire is a treasured piece of my album collection, I have named it as one that “evokes absolutely no feeling”. She’s just never stirred much up in me before…I liked her music, but have not loved it. Come Across the River, though having much of her signature sound, is a completely different album. Much more focused on instrumentation, it is an amazing second release, much better then the first. If I thought Duby as previously emotionless, all I need to do is turn up track five, the haunting Providence, and I admit I spoke too soon. Like Mazzy Starr, it’s thick and soft, with perfect tambourine chimes and that amazing washed out lead guitar sound that only Among My Swan could rival.

Backed up by an amazing band, Duby isn’t exactly picking up where Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Starr left off. It has much more instrumentation along with Duby’s amazing voice; there’s really no one who sounds like her. Full of maturity and depth, her voice resonates her words perfectly. If you thought Beth Orton had one of the strongest, most mature voices in music today, Duby could prove you wrong.

Always referred to as “ethereal”, she is of the darker side of that definition. Rather than the light, airiness that word implies, Come Across the River is a heavy album. Meaning, it’s weighty, dense and darker then a lot of the more atmospheric stuff you’ll come across. There is an intensity about Duby and her music that makes her incomparable among her contemporaries. The independent music scene is lacking a lot of these qualities coming from it’s songwriters (male or female) as of late. Duby ranks alongside Maura Davis of Denali in originality rather then much of what’s come out this year. This is the kind of album that becomes influential and inspires those to come - Steph


Heather Duby - Come Across the River
Heather Duby/Elemental EP
Heather Duby - Post to Wire

Streaming audio available at I-Tunes.com and Weedfiles.com


Feeling a bit camera shy


After a long absence, Heather Duby has returned with her Sophomore full-length release, Come Across the River. Heather, a Portland singer-songwriter, moved to Seattle in 1994, and after several years of fronting her own band, released the Sub Pop LP Post to Wire. Come across the River is a departure from her previous record which was deeply influenced by the signature loops, samples and keyboard sounds of collaborator/producer Steve Fisk (Pigeonhed). While Come Across the River was co-produced by Steve Fisk, the album marks an increased emphasis on songwriting and organic musical arrangements while maintaining Heather’s signature ethereal vocal style.