Casey Dienel is sitting at a table in a restaurant with a glass of water, half empty. The lemon ,perched on the rim of the glass like a canary, periodically drips its sour secretions down the inside of the glass, mixing with and stirring up the water in the glass. The glass is still half empty, but she knows the waiter will walk by and fill it up again. This is one of the best ways you can describe Casey Dienel’s music. For the majority of her first recording, Wind-Up Canary, she uses slower, seemingly simplistic rhythms coupled with lyrics that always have a certain desperation to them, but are never pessimistic. This enigmatic concoction is an irresistible delight that will hook the eardrums at first listen.
Dienel’s second track on Wind-Up Canary, “Everything,” briefly tells her life in the second verse. At age four she found her “lonely ivories” and has been playing them ever since. She moved from a Massachusetts harbor town to Boston to go to school, but “can still hear waves.” Once at the New England Conservatory, she had trouble deciding if she wanted to focus in opera or classical. She made the choice so many people have made when they’re stuck in that situation, and decided to make some pop songs. She then went to an abandoned farmhouse in Leominster, Massachusetts where she was offered to record for free. She took up the offer, but after she was done recording, she put her songs away, thinking of them as nothing more than a pet project. Through some connections, Hush Records gave her songs a listen, picked up Dienel, and released Wind-Up Canary.
The album’s first track, “Doctor Monroe” starts off with an almost childish sounding piano rhythm, but gradually increases in complexity, adding light percussion in the background and slight backing vocals. The track gradually gets more intense, ascending toward a fuller sound. “Baby James” has a very enticing jazzy tune, differentiating from the rest of the album, but Dienel’s vocals still have that lingering desperation that adds a different dimension to any song. A rare aspect is that each one of the tracks is highlighted with its own special touch, which makes listening to the album as a whole just as adventurous as hitting “random.” Wind-Up Canary will surely be one of the CDs regularly on your car’s sun visor, that is, if its not playing in the stereo full-time.
The Piano is an instrument that most definitely has its greats: Ray Charles, Elton John, Billy Joel, and for the more recent generations, Ben Folds. At only 20 years old, Casey Dienel still has much of her musical career ahead of her, an intriguing thought seeing how impressive her debut album was. Including her amongst that list of greats shortly after her career has started may be saying a bit much, but don’t be surprised if you hear Casey Dienel spoken about with such reverence in the future.