Listen: April Smith and The Great Picture Show

April Smith, with her band, The Great Picture Show, is just inches away from hitting the mainstream beat. Some might say centimeters. She’s that close. Already her music’s found its way onto feature-length films, such as the Rob Schneider-led Wild Cherry, in addition to popular television shows like MTV’s The Hills and Newport Harbor. On the road, she’s opened up for Carrie Underwood, Sara Bareilles, and the Go-Gos, and that’s just naming a few. As if that weren’t enough, blog-wonderboy Perez Hilton ranted and raved about her, too. Yeah, we’ll go with centimeters.

Born in Toms River, New Jersey, Smith grew up in a household that encouraged her to go somewhere with her talent for music. From an early age, this young songstress listened to a messy tacklebox of artists, everyone from Tom Waits (she talks about him all the time) to The Andrew Sisters, Robert Plant, and John Lennon. What a combo, right?

With a mixture of her idols and her natural voice, Smith’s vocals never fail to serve as the focal point in her songs. Before she had The Great Picture show backing her up, her studio debut, loveletterbombs (2006), set her up as an alternative rock type, similar to Tori Amos — only with more grit and less pretension. Amidst her power ballads, there’s a youthful anguish in her front-and-center voice that sounds like something Eisley would call its own.

If the debut doesn’t give you an appetite for her music, then perhaps her follow-up EP, Live From The Penthouse, will. The EP, which was recorded at Tainted Blue Studios in Times Square (in front of a live audience, no less), has more of a vaudeville vintage sound with its organs, ’50s-style jazz piano comping, and two-step beats. And by the way Smith sounds on this EP compared to her debut, she’s matured some and grown into her voice. She is smooth, always confident, and does a great job of intertwining sexy soulfulness into her songs. Just take how she handles Motown (see track, “Drop Dead Gorgeous”). It’s just altogether sultry and seductive.

However, Live From The Penthouse doesn’t always stick to its retro motif. On the sing-along-friendly track, “Terrible Things”, Smith isn’t scared to expose her theatrical side as she shrills and wails in the song’s chorus. The song “Colors” is a fun, upbeat pop song that has Top 40 potential if it were to ever be recorded without the bustle of a live audience and the imperfections of a live set. However, it is still great the way it is now, especially when the quirky mouth trumpet bridge comes about midway through the song. “Beloved” is a stripped down acoustic song about a love so strong that she will “settle for your ghost.” As she croons lyrics about her broken heart, recognize the range and control of her god-given talent.

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