Its 11 songs explode with a power-pop propensity, full of driving keyboards, punchy horns, thunderous drums, and production that gives the whole album a panoramic, space-age feel. But there’s also a sense of dread lurking beneath those shiny exteriors.
With a voice like a raging fire, Sarah Rabdau leads the Self-Employed Assassins in their newest album with a beautiful resonance of clarity and strength... The music accompanies her perfectly as it works to compliment her singing, rather than trying to overshadow it. With beautiful lyrics, wonderful singing, and an entertaining performance, Sarah Rabdau and the Self-Employed Assassins create a successful and authentically talented album.
First of all, Ms. Rabdau is a meticulous vocalist whose delivery seems controlled yet feels ecstatic. I am convinced that it is in this very unity of opposites that the defining essence of her artistry lies. Secondly, the instrumentation is less world beat than subtle art rock drawing upon a variety of eclectic influences, including (I assume) modern classical composers. Third, Peter Moore’s production on his nine songs is superb;.. Ms. Rabdau’s vocal theatrics on “Queen of the Castle” are truly remarkable, and Matt Graber’s percussive moves on “Riots and Revolutions” render it a true piano-and-drum showpiece. And the quiescent tempo of the keyboards, the percussion, and the gorgeous vocal line on “Man Child” could hardly be improved upon.
Sarah Rabdau and her Self-Employed Assassin(s) not only have a great name, they also make great music. Drummer Matt Graber backs up Rabdau's sometimes gorgeous, sometimes disturbing vocals and piano work with somehow-melodic rhythms, and the duo are often joined by strings as well. Just as some photos make you wonder whether the duo has been picking berries or killing folks, so too does the music occupy a space between haunted and heavenly.
If you know the sweetly voiced Rabdau, you’re likely fond of the way her wispily crisp vocal plays so nicely with an assortment of hazy textures, moody moods, and of course her powerful piano chops. Since she’s teamed up with Graber and remonikered her efforts, though, things have changed. A piano and drums set-up could easily veer into maudlin, but here, Rabdau and Graber conjure something closer to a lost Lauper song pounded out in a pub.
RabDAU's penchant for atmospheric electronics, strings and vocal effects is nicely grounded by her melodies and classically pop-derived structures, making for a well-balanced batch of tunes that's neither too boring nor too obtuse, but rather just right. Sweeping dynamics, jaunty piano lines and clever choices of sound give the material a fairly original signature
- Reax Magazine
When you have a stellar voice like Sarah Rabdau everything else really should fall into place. On her self-titled album with the Self-Employed Assassins that is exactly what happens as her crystal clear and siren like vocals meld with the instrumentation of piano, violin and drums. The songs very in tempo from some more outright upbeat foot tappers like "Weekend" or the more quiet "Autumn Spills" that rely heavily on Rabdau's pleasant vocals. Sarah Rabdau And Self-Employed Assassins have been honing their skills since 2005 and this release showcases all of their hard work and it is solid from beginning to end!
- Fire Drills Blog
Like some other favorite artists of mine, Sarah Rabdau’s unassuming stage presence gives no hints as to the talents locked within. After the band had shuffled themselves into place, the first notes began to play and an entire room transfixed itself on Sarah Rabdau’s voice. I’m a sucker for voice, so this is often a make or break aspect for me and Sarah’s voice live—amazingly not that much different from studio—is something worth seeing (or hearing, as the case may be). I certainly loved it. Matt Graber’s drums also left little to be desired. He’s easily one of the best I’ve seen in over a year of covering Boston concerts and I’d instantly be interested in any project he was involved in.
- Mel.opho.be live review
Sarah Rabdau’s previous record was more electronically influenced than her follow-up. She’s found a new band member and new inspiration...Boxing Helena tells of a girl who feels as oppressed as the forced amputee in Jennifer Lynch’s eponymous film. Rabdau’s piano playing is stellar here. San Francisco is a seemingly sweet piano ballad where the lead vocal is utterly gorgeous. Self-employed Assassin ends the album on a disturbing note, a song of love gone wrong and murder. Rabdau throws herself into it with great spirit. She’s successfully changed her style and come out a more compelling artist than ever before.
- Collected Sounds
Sarah Rabdau has one of those voices that I could listen to all day long and the superb debut by Rabdau and Self-Employed Assassins (in actuality, just drummer Matt Graber) showcases those lady's talent to maximum effect. There's not a misstep amoung these piano-heavy tunes that pack a pretty consistent emotional wallop from beginning ("Crushing") to end ("Self-Employed Assassin"). Among the many, many high points are "Autumn Spills", the devastating ballad "Boxing Helena", "Riots and Revolutions", "San Francisco", and "Pillar of Tears". Rabdau and Graber are a pitch-perfect team. He keeps the beat effectively without oversahdowing Rabdau or ever becoming obtrusive, but can carry the load when necessary (case in point, the aforementioned "Riots"). Her piano playing is solid, though perhaps a notch below her singing, making for a formidable combination. This one's highly recommended, folks.
- The Daily News