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CD Reviews - Hana Pestle
Hana Pestle: Hana Pestle (EP)
August 2008
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Hana Pestle's self titled EP

As there's no shortage of talented singer/songwriters around, it can be difficult for one to rise above the crowd. But with an incredible voice, excellent guitar skills, a captivating live show, and mastery of various dynamics, Hana Pestle has more than enough talent to establish herself as an elite singer/songwriter. Pestle, a 19-year-old Billings, MT native now based in Los Angeles, has achieved a mature, powerful, and well-produced sound on her self-titled debut EP. The EP, on which Pestle worked with music industry veterans like Evanescence co-founder Ben Moody and Michael "Fish" Herring, flows together nicely with an extremely polished sound, arrangements that feature her outstanding voice as the lead instrument, and a variety of instrumentation that complements her voice while giving each song a unique sound and style.

The first track, These Two Hands, is a powerful opener with varied dynamics, distorted guitar riffs, piano, and strings that fit very well with the lyrical tone and set the mood for Pestle's vocals about overcoming fears. These Two Hands is the most rocking song on the EP, and quickly establishes Pestle's ability to keep her vocals at the forefront while singing within the framework of the song.

Just a Phase follows, starting out much mellower and sonically different than These Two Hands with acoustic guitar and strings that leave plenty of room for Pestle's vocals to lead the song. While the chorus gets louder with some electric guitar, Pestle's voice remains the focal point throughout without overpowering the instrumentation. In addition to featuring another passionate vocal performance, Just a Phase offers an example of lyrics that are based on a specific story yet vague enough to allow listeners to draw their own meanings from the song. Pestle also displays a subtle, but very effective, ability to manipulate the cadence and inflection of her vocal delivery to suit the lyrics and timing of the song.

The most stripped down, gripping, and powerful song on the EP is Pestle's rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Her voice is crystal clear and in total command as she makes it sound effortless to hit even the most difficult notes while eliciting every bit of the underlying beauty and emotion that are so important to Cohen's classic. Pestle's version of Hallelujah is a confluence of pure talent, emotion, arrangement, production, and understanding the song. The instrumentation provides a perfect backdrop for Pestle's voice with acoustic guitar and strings supporting, but not at all overshadowing, her vocals. While Pestle journeys through an impressive range of dynamics and notes throughout the song, her vocal performance from about the 4:20 mark to the 5:30 mark is a particularly stunning display of her talent.

The closing track, Together Forever, is the slowest-paced and moodiest of the three originals on the album, with the tempo, instrumentation, and vocal delivery setting a good tone for the lyrics that speak of staying in a relationship just because it was the comfortable thing to do. While the first three songs allow Pestle plenty of opportunities to display the range and strength of her voice, on Together Forever she sings in a much more restrained style that fits the song perfectly and shows an ability to know when to hold back in the best interest of a song. While this track is not the most dynamic one on the EP, it is a good song that adds to the diversity of the album, features a vocal style that is different in many respects from that of the other three songs, and illustrates Pestle's vocal versatility.

On her self-titled debut EP, Hana Pestle establishes herself as an extremely capable musician with an amazing voice. While Pestle's vocal ability is clearly the strongest feature of the album, her guitar skills, understanding of how to treat each song, and ability to convey a variety of emotions with her vocals should not be overlooked. The EP is musically diverse and demonstrates her ability to work with different styles, use a variety of backing instrumentation, and adjust her vocal delivery to suit each song. This EP is just a glimpse of what Pestle is capable of achieving, as she was the first artist signed to Moody's new record label FNR Records and has a full-length album in the works. With an incredible amount of talent, the support of an artist-centric label, successful and well-respected collaborators, a growing fan base, and an excellent connection with her fans, Hana Pestle has a very bright future and the tools to differentiate herself as one of the best emerging singer/songwriters.