Not a Victim - Stephanie Pakrul
Lorraine Smith introduces the intriguing new "edgy folk" singer Stephanie Pakrul.
These days, with the charts filled with singers 'discovered' by reality TV shows, it's that little bit more special to come across someone who is doing their own thing. People who do more than sing and who don't crave fame and fortune are still out there, but most hold out for that elusive record deal. Some people, however, are just out to do what they love, and that is certainly true of Stephanie Pakrul.
Beautifully crafted songs with wonderful melodies and emotional lyrics
I first heard tracks from Not a Victim when friends played them to me and I was then surprised to discover that Pakrul is a 21-year-old Canadian student without a recording contract. She released her first album on 14th November 2003 as a self-funded project, with a bit of help from donations made via her website and I'd say it was worth every penny. Beautifully crafted songs with wonderful melodies, emotional lyrics and understated piano/guitar accompaniment make this a stand-out debut.
The album opens with a rather powerful piano ballad and my admiration for this woman's talent was confirmed by the time I got to track two; a quirky song called Daughter of Sam that is slightly reminiscent of Tori Amos's style. The lyrics of the third track, T.P.E., are very compelling and you find yourself totally drawn into the music, with lines like "If you ever speak her name, I will personally make sure that you never speak again" taking you right to the emotional place Stephanie was inhabiting when she wrote the song. It's not often that I am really struck by the lyrics in a song, but an even more rare occurrence to be enthralled by every word on an entire album.
The music almost lulls you into a false sense of security over the first eight tracks of the CD because the final will really catch you off guard. I suppose a title like Anthem for the Perverted should have given me a clue that this song would take no prisoners, but nothing prepared me for this 7" minute experience. What a perfect way to end, by leaving your listeners wanting more! It's quite tricky to describe the overall sound of the album and so I'll quote the lady herself who said, in an interview with her university's student newspaper, that her style was "edgy folk". Listen with an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Stephanie's music is recorded under the yellow OpenMusic licence which allows free private use, modification, derived works, distribution and broadcasting. By allowing non-commercial distribution of her work she is getting her songs heard by a great many more people and is creating a sense of community in her fans, most of whom I suspect will have gone on to buy the CD anyway. It's a small price to pay when this open-minded independent and very creative woman has already spent so much on her dream. Which, unusually, isn't one of commercial success, just making good music.