Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the Other Side Review: Thoughts on the Soundtrack to Jessica Bell's String Bridge

On the Other Side is a beautifully emotive record of the deepest thoughts and turmoils of String Bridge’s main character, Melody Hill, a musician who gave up a life of music for her husband and child, but is now trying to bring music back into her life. The album is heartfelt and intense, with a mix of raw acoustic energy and moody synths.

When I first read the lyrics accompanying String Bridge, I worried that the songs would be short and simple and very literal as the lyrics seemed to be; however, the rise and fall of the instrumentation and of Jessica’s voice make all the difference. For me, the cd has the sound of what I would imagine the love child of The Cranberries, Garbage, and Joni Mitchell to be. (This also makes a lot of sense, as I can imagine Melody listening to all three of these artists.) It’s the kind of music you can just close your eyes and feel, and it works very well with the story/plot of the book. Sadly, as I did not request the music until AFTER reading String Bridge, all I can offer is the post-reading experience.

The two problems I have with On the Other Side, which perhaps I have set myself up for for reviewing a 'soundtrack', are the similarity of the songs and the overly-literal aspects of the lyrics. The songs are quite powerful by themselves, but when I listen to all of them together, I can barely tell where one song ends and the other begins. They all have the same lilting, ebb and flow of soft and heavy guitar, light and intense vocals, etc, etc, that I don’t really get a feel for one over the other. Essentially, Melody is always angsting and always doing so in the same eerie manner. Honestly, I don't feel the growth. I keep listening and trying to find out where something changes up a bit, but, particularly with the extra background instrumentation, it all becomes one wave of Melody’s misfortune. This does mimic the craziness of the novel and of Melody's life, but musically I really wanted more. Even if Melody broke out of her flow to become louder or raspier or more real, I probably would be satisfied.

I also found the songs to be extremely literal to everything going on at that moment in the story that they are meant for. In some respects, this is a good thing, because you can totally imagine her just breaking into song at that moment and singing “oh my god, how can you do this exact thing to me.” But if the reader is to imagine Melody as a serious artist, creating songs to play on her tour of the US, it’s a bit harder to believe that she wouldn’t be a bit more imaginative. It also makes the songs hard to relate to, which is augmented by the sameness of the tone of all of the songs. The emotional force behind them is so strong, but it’s not like I could place myself in the lyrics without knowing the story. Even as I first read through the lyrics, it felt like “oh, okay, she’s saying the same thing over again. And again. And again.” I understand that soundtracks are meant to mirror and augment the scenes of a story, but, as I said, I wanted some sign of growth.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy On the Other Side. I think it makes a decent companion to the book, and the musicianship is certainly of good quality. Jessica Bell's voice is incredible and a delight to listen to. On the Other Side is a soundtrack after all, so it makes sense that it works best as background music, for emotions rather than lyrics.

Of course, I could not leave you with only a review for the soundtrack, so tune in next week for a review of String Bridge.

To purchase the soundtrack:
Amazon UK:


  1. Gina - art is such a subjective beast isn't it? I enjoyed your review of On the Other Side - it's a slightly different perspective from my thoughts.

    Neither the book nor the CD fall within my "traditional" reading/listening routine, which is perhaps why I was absolutely drawn into the music (and the book), as though under a magical spell. I DO listen to the soundtrack on repeat, often finding inspiration in Jessica's hauntingly beautiful voice. The similarities of some of the songs doesn't bother me, it's more like a comfort. I'm certainly not going to work out to On the Other Side, but I am going to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine, close my eyes, and get lost in Jessica's voice. (Or play it at work on repeat...of which I'm often guilty.)

    As you note, On the Other Side is a companion to String Bridge, and in that regard, I think it's spot on. The lyrics are reflective of Melody's emotional roller coaster, and every time I hear one of the songs, I'm reminded of a piece of the book. Brilliant marketing!

    Though the two pieces work beautifully together, in my opinion, I also can return to the real world and recognize that the book and the soundtrack are not only companion pieces, but also each a wonderful showcase of Jessica's multi-talent.

    I'm looking forward to your review of the book!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write this review, Gina. It's a pleasure to have you a part of my blog tour.

  3. Dawn, I know what you mean! I do find myself listening to it on repeat and it does give me inspiration, but, for me, it's more for the flow of the sounds and the way her voice mixes with the instruments. It's not a lyrical thing. (Is that weird?) Because when i focus on the lyrics I get lost. Which is why I was trying to get the point across, and hopefully I did, that it's not that the songs aren't beautiful or that the musicianship is lacking, it's more that all of that was so good that I wanted it to be better and to stand out more. :-)

  4. Great review Gina. BTW...I loved Triangles. I'm so glad you gave it to me.