Magdalen Hsu-Li

“Smashing the Ceiling” is Magdalen Hsu-Li’s fourth album. It is an impressive collection of ten songs that fall short only in a few areas.

Hsu Li’s style is subdued and thoughtful, although the album never begins to drag or fall into any of the problems of many artists with slow music. In fact, with a few exceptions, the album is captivating, nearly demanding a second and third listen.

The second half of the album is especially good at grabbing attention. Not only do the most reflective lyrics come from this portion of the album, but so do the catchiest melodies and hooks. Notable examples include “Northern Lights” and the country style folk song “Straight On ‘Til Morning.”

The first half of the album has its share of problems though. The first song brings the album limping in with a slow pace and leaves nothing to grab the listener’s attention. Also the second song, “Mary Magdalene,” is about the Mary Magdalene of the Bible and does not seem to fit in properly with the rest of the album. Still, once those two songs are done, it only takes Hsu-Li a few solid songs to get the album moving.

Magdalene is an impressive singer, and on this album she has surrounded herself with a set of great musicians. It is evident while listening to the album that many peoples ideas have been realized on this album, not just Hsu-Li’s.

This album does not start off on the right foot, but once Hsu-Li finds her sound, listening to “Smashing the Ceiling” is a captivating experience that any fan of folk music will certainly enjoy.