A Pittsburgher since the mid-'90s and a fixture on the local singer-songwriter scene, Heather Kropf has established a name for herself -- and a growing discography. The piano-based musician released her third full-length, Hestia (named for the Greek goddess of the hearth), earlier this year.
In Hestia, Kropf presents 11 tracks, on which she's joined by numerous other notables of the local folk/rock scene (such as regular collaborator Keith Hershberger) and even local jazz clarinetist Benny Benack.
The mood of the album is largely melancholy; Kropf holds down the angsty end of the Lilith Fair-style singer-songwriter ideal. Through much of Hestia, Kropf could be compared to Shawn Colvin or a less spunky, more brooding Lisa Loeb. Her vocals are spot-on and her piano work sweet if not particularly energetic.
The sensory details in Kropf's lyrics are clearly the subject of serious contemplation, and much of her writing borders on literary: "Grace" begins, "That was her cigarette by the front step / I can tell by the color of the lipstick stain." It's evocative imagery, but eclipsed by the plain and stark assertion that immediately follows: "What I know about Grace is that she's heavily made up." Sometimes in lyrics, the old "reveal, don't tell" rule from writing class goes out the window. Kropf's songwriting is, in fact, at its best when she's not stretching, but instead telling it like it is.
Hestia is a heavy album emotionally, and not for those interested only in good-time music. It can also be cumbersome at times, but Kropf shines when she sheds the literary pretense and lets loose a more raw version of her observations and interpretations.