Erin Costelo

“Oh Me Oh My” – Erin Costelo

At once short and expansive, “Oh Me Oh My” flaunts the open spaces offered up by both its downtempo flair and its minimalist arrangement. A firm, slow beat is established with neither fuss nor volume. Then see how the classic, early-’60s melody is partially deconstructed by the sparse setting—note, for instance, the unexpected harmony the first wordless backing vocals provide at 0:20. And then note how stingily this fetching backing vocal is used in the whole song.

At the center of this satisfying, reimagined retro-soul nugget is Costelo’s voice, a forceful instrument with both a booming timbre and a delicate vibrato. She struts through the slow, economically presented verse, expands with the double-time melody in the chorus, and never over-sings. In her upper range, her voice acquires a silvery power that smartly recalls bygone soul singers in some inscrutable—or, at least, indescribable—way. Music is difficult enough to turn into concrete description, but describing voices is pretty much impossible. I keep thinking, next time, next time I’ll nail it. But the point, ultimately, is to say: listen, listen to this voice, you’ll hear something potent in it. Your soul will be stirred.

“Oh Me Oh My” is the lead track on Costelo’s third album, We Can Get Over, which is set to arrive in early October. The album represents a stylistic culmination for the Halifax-based singer/songwriter. On The Trouble and the Truth, her 2008 debut, she presented herself as a relatively straightforward jazz singer. For her second album, 2009’s Fire and Fuss, Costelo moved more towards pop, while retaining some of her jazz-oriented inclinations. This time around, from the sound of it, she’s left overt jazz behind while exploring the elusive place at which ’60s soul and girl-group music commingles. Seems like a good idea to me.