Providence-based singer Rosalind Schonwald is my Model Martian Moon Girl and here’s why… She’s got a great voice and sings with remarkable maturity for a nineteen year old. Well versed in both jazz and classical music, she approaches pop with a strong theoretical background, but she isn’t too haughty to have a little fun with it. Her music is accessible but intriguing enough to warrant repeat listens. And while her lyrics are superficially cute and clever, they don’t shy away from heavier topics. Consider the A-Side, a love song for a non-existent “Model Martian Moon Boy.”
Schonwald claims that the refrain, “You’re my Model Martian Moon Boy,” is nonsensical, but beneath the silliness she questions the danger of dependency.
Oh, when you finally find yourself under all those good intentions
I want you for myself in a way I’d rather not mention
You’re the armor that protects me…
And I’ll keep you if it wrecks me
Schonwald alternates between the hyper-metaphorical and the specific, so the listener never knows exactly what imagery to expect.
Right now you’re the treetops that sweetly grace the stars
Right now you have the only shoulders I want to lean on.
Her controlled vibrato on the high notes conveys a sense of ambiguity, both the power and vulnerability that love offer.
Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, “Model Martian Moon Boy” isn’t exactly a radio hit. There is so little harmonic variation that with a few small cuts the song could be reduced to three minutes. But it’s no accident that Schonwald allows it stretch on luxuriously. She delivers her lyrics deliberately but slowly, so that you never know quite when the end of the phrase is going to fall. Surrender and enjoy the lullaby.
Schonwald wrote “Helen’s Song” about her grandmother. Although thematically quite different from “Model Martian Moon Boy,” Schonwald explains, “I conceived of both of them as a series of images within a world with fantastical properties while I wrote them. My grandmother never sat in her living room yanking a chain relating to fate, and I’ve never seen a treetop graze a star, let alone making contact with one, but in both cases I found the creation of such imagery to be a very real and concrete release of emotion.” Real emotion behind the fantasy.
Her mind stays sharp but her body is breaking
Always giving never taking
It’s preposterous to me
How she could cease to be
I can’t see I can’t hardly believe
Until the refrain, the music is repressed, tense, sparse, and hesitant. But in the last minute of the recording, Schonwald builds into a powerful and uplifting bluesy progression.
You’ll see that she is flying, she’s flying, there she goes…
Her voice soars along with the lyrics, and when she finally returns to the beginning theme, it’s with a heightened sense of awareness.
Schonwald is often compared to Regina Spektor and it’s easy to see why. They have similar voices, play the piano, are heavily influenced by jazz, and share a penchant for quirky lyrics. If you like Regina, particularly her earlier work, you’ll probably like Rosalind Schonwald. But let’s not dismiss Rosalind Schonwald as a mere Regina Spektor imitation, even though that wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. Schonwald’s style is more minimalist than Spektor’s. She avoids conventional song structure, preferring to take things slowly, allowing her songs to develop at a relaxed pace. She doesn’t over-complicate and she doesn’t dumb it down… and the result is something really pleasant. She could be a hit in any coffee shop from Brooklyn to Timbuktu!