While there are plenty of catchy numbers on Broken Cookies, the second full-length album from Ohio native Annie Dinerman, it is her lyrics that set her apart from her peers in the folk-pop category and make her songs memorable. This gift sparkles on “My Ex-Boyfriend,” in which she cleverly starts each line with “You remind me of my ex-boyfriend,” but then juxtaposes the ex’s bad qualities with the good qualities of her current love interest: “You remind me of my ex-boyfriend / yet you actually do like your job” or “but you’ve got manners and you’re a thinker.”
I smiled at the end, as the song’s refrain changed to “You remind me of my next boyfriend,” indicating that this man has potential after all. Dinerman's love of wordplay is also apparent on “Big Dog,” in which a stubborn canine is a metaphor for a philandering lover. “You broke your leash and ran,” she sings.
The witty lyrics and lovely melody of “One Planet At A Time” make this plea for environmental protection amusing rather than preachy. Dinerman advocates cleaning up Earth before humans explore other worlds, an unconventional, humorous, and insightful position. “This beautiful messed-up world is ours / so why do they spend my taxes on Mars?” The jaunty “In The Dark” concerns a lonely woman who overhears her older neighbor’s romantic escapades through the apartment wall and wonders why she doesn’t have a paramour herself. “He’s got gray hair / he’s got wrinkles / he’s got a pension / he’s got a lover,” she belts out. By the end of the entertaining tune, she rather hopefully decides to rekindle her own love life.
Dinerman's more poignant songs also shine. “Broken Cookies” recounts a memorable incident in which a young girl and her mother buy a box of broken cookies from a bakery and scarf them down in the car; she captures the 4-year-old’s joy of a lark with her mother perfectly, down to the “green icing, powdered sugar, marmalade” cookie bits. Sadly for our young protagonist, her mother refused to buy the broken cookie bits again, and subsequently other sweets were disappointing. The post break-up song “Different Now,” is refreshing as it acknowledges that “life is still a bitch sometimes” and that healing occurs slowly. It is neither a revenge fantasy of a woman scorned or a triumphant tale of dumping a lover and setting out on new adventures, but instead addresses the very real hurt that almost any breakup produces.
While Dinerman's material is solidly in the folk tradition, she displays a mastery of various forms, from the slow, introspective, and melancholy “A King and a Hero” to the no-holds-barred torch ballad “Stole My Soul.” Soaring melodies showcase her rich voice; the instrumentation primarily consists of guitar, bass, piano, and drums but occasionally wanders into wider territory, such as the castanets and conga on “Egyptian Cotton.”
Too often folk music is thought of as low-key, something to be played in quiet coffeehouses as background noise. Dinerman shows that a singer-songwriter can tackle a wide array of topics with humor and heartfelt emotion while making deeply memorable music that will have you humming and tapping your feet.