Meaghan Burke and The Rhythm Method Voice A Few Concerns

Meaghan Burke’s A Few Concerns (Gold Bolus Recordings) is the culmination of six years of work with The Rhythm Method—the contemporary feminist string quartet of which Burke is a founding member. Burke has a diverse career as a cellist, singer, and composer; she previously released two albums of her songs, Creature Comforts (2017) and Other People’s Ghosts (2010), and is the lead singer of the avant-grunge band Forever House. Infused with contemporary classical textures and quasi-conceptual interludes, A Few Concerns is a singer/songwriter album saturated with shimmering soundscapes, witty lyrics, and an emotional nuance that I look forward to returning to again and again.

Burke is joined by The Rhythm Method’s performer-composers Leah Asher (violin), Marina Kifferstein (violin), and Wendy Richman (viola). Sound artist and bassist Bernd Klug co-produced, recorded, and mixed A Few Concerns, and it is one of the best sounding albums in recent memory. Klug’s ability to craft an intimate and yet spacious and layered sound world is stellar.

While A Few Concerns rightfully touts itself as a commentary on the current state of politics and patriarchy, this is just one facet of The Rhythm Method’s work to unpack. Some of their outstanding initiatives include their “Hidden Mothers Project,” which highlights work by historical women composers, and their “Broad Statements” mini-festival, which celebrates creative music-making by womxn in NYC. The quartet has also championed recent and new works by Tonia Ko, Shelley Washington, inti figgis-vizueta, Lewis Nielson, and this season will premiere works by Anaïs Maviel and Paul Pinto.

Meaghan Burke--Photo by Garfield Trummer

Meaghan Burke–Photo by Garfield Trummer

A Few Concerns explores the political turmoil of the last four years with raw introspection, but steers clear of becoming preachy or heavy-handed. Perhaps the most on-the-nose track is “Superpower,” a toe-tapping, post-capitalist daydream. Burke sings, “I don’t want a superpower, I don’t want a nation state. I don’t need no rich man to make my country great.” In the climax of this song, the quartet’s viscous, lyrical playing dissipates and the daydream returns, this time with a cool confidence: “Someday soon, we’re gonna trump you at your own game.”

In “Little Disaster,” a simple, undulating pizzicato motive drives the song forward while Burke sings of the intimate sadness within a relationship. The flexibility of Burke’s voice shines through here, as her subtle changes in color bring out both the sweetness and sorrow of the narrative. Burke evokes this same warmth in “Cry,” where she repeats variations on the phrase “sometimes we all need to cry in the subway” with a matter-of-factness that is disarming and comforting.

In “Smile,” Burke impersonates the all-too-common catcaller with smoky, sensual mezzo vocals. Later in the song, the calls shift from lewd to frightening, and from frightening to pathetic. The song ends with a round of catcalls (“hey girl…why don’t you play me a song…where are you trying to run”) trapped in a music-box-like echo chamber.

Meaghan Burke--Photo courtesy

Meaghan Burke–Photo courtesy

A healthy offering of contemporary classical gestures, techniques, and textures are sewn into the seams of these songs. The build-up in “Hysteria” ends with the lyric, “Don’t breathe a word,” before suddenly cutting away to a Lachenmannesque scraping and scratching texture; “Eggshells” has a lengthy, dizzying glissando section; “Coda” has a semi-improvisatory feel and a harmonic language that evokes the dissonant Romanticism of the early twentieth-century.

Three tracks—“(shh),” “(krk),” and “(the shape of a fox)”—are quite different from the songs that surround them. At around thirty to sixty seconds each, they feel more like improvised mini-interlude palette-cleansers than standalone works. Nestled between the more substantial songs, these tracks are like dried wildflowers, foraged for and lovingly preserved between the pages of a favorite book.

A Few Concerns is a smart, feisty album that is both provocative and a pleasure to listen to. This is a culminating work from Meaghan Burke and The Rhythm Method that should not be missed.


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