Meet Sophia Pfister

Instead of the usual "song and dance", the email refreshingly got directly to the point: "Will you review my record?". I replied, "Send it and if I like it I will."

The record arrived. There was no catalog number and the cover art was not exactly polished, but the credits intrigued: on what appeared to be a low budget number was pedal steel great Greg Leisz as well as two cellists and a violinist—members of the L.A. Philharmonic. Everyone involved has outstanding credits.

Ms. Pfister sings and wrote the songs as well as the arrangements, which are spare, deft and spacious. Said Pfister in an email: "I actually had to chase Greg Leisz down in the parking lot with cash in my hands because he said he had so much fun he forgot to get paid for the recording session."

Ms. Pfister added: "I attended Berklee College of Music for a year and I can definitely say, I learned so much more just throwing myself into this by writing, recording and funding everything myself. I showed up in LA with nothing but dreams and that's why I started the album with that song about my complicated love and hate for this city of Los Angeles."

After playing the five song EP, which contains tough, gritty, but tuneful songs and sounds remarkably fine, I asked for a short bio:

"I was born in California and lived in various parts until I was 10 years old, but I moved to Ashland, Oregon and was raised there until I was 18 years old. After High School I auditioned and was accepted to Berklee College of Music, but dropped out after a year. I then moved back to California and have been moving around LA the past few years. I turned 24 last January and as of last month I am now living in Highland Park with my brother (who also films my music videos).

"I currently have a day job at a mortuary and I come from a very creative family, however none of them are musicians. My mother is from Mexico, and my father is of Irish and Hungarian decent. I play the banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, guitar etc… and can I make a song with any instrument I pick up, however I consider myself a writer and singer rather than a technically proficient instrumentalist."

Having lived in Los Angeles for eight years, the opening tune really resonated with me. I share the singer's "love and hate" relationship with Los Angeles and perhaps that's part of what made me determined to share with analogplanet readers this five song demo, which was recorded at Studio City Sound and can be purchased on Ms. Pfister's website.

Grammy Award winner Tom Weir, who owns Studio City, produced, engineered and mixed the record. He also plays drums.

It seems that everyone involved is pulling for Sophia Pfister. Is this the best she will do? Or is it just the beginning of something bigger? You can never tell. I just thought this was an auspicious, high quality demo worthy of your attention. I posted the video on YouTube last night and hundreds have listened and it's gotten all "thumbs ups".

azmoon's picture

really like the beat and the vocal is very interesting. I will be looking into getting this.

BobW's picture

I wish her the best of luck.

kurb1980's picture

Wow this sounds like a RAW mic feed no vocal effects. Sounds nice but not really my cup of tea with that said she should head over to blue coast records see if she could get signed. This sounds like it would be right up their ally.

OldschoolE's picture

I just had a second listen and I tell you what, she is not afraid of writing lyrics. She's not afraid to just get it out there, no holds barred. I find her sound to be a bit avant-garde with a jazz foundation and in your face approach.
Nothing really stands out to me regarding vocals or instrument performance and while it may not be overwhelmingly appealing, I like it in a strange way.

Michael Fremer's picture
Concise and pretty much mirrors my reaction. I do like it! But not in a strange way....:-)
mraudioguru's picture

...since I really do like it. $30 for a 5 song EP is nuts! I thought maybe $15-$20, but $30 bucks is way too much for a relative unknown and for only 5 dongs.

Sorry Sophia.

mraudioguru's picture

5 songs...sorry. Color my face red.

firedog55's picture

Available as $30 vinyl and iTunes?
Want to sell some to this crowd?Make it available as a CD quality or hi-res download. And not $30 for 5 songs.

Too bad, otherwise I'd buy it to help out a new artist

Superfuzz's picture

It is available as a download... mp3 or flac (CD quality), or stream it, on her bandcamp page. And it's not $30, it's "name your price", which means you could get it for free if you're really cheap

isaacrivera's picture

It is a truly limited edition of 200 which she funded herself. She is probably just trying to recover her investment. You may like her music or not, but to whine about the price to a struggling aspiring artist? Either you support the artist or you don't. And sell to this crowd by making it a CD? Do you know this crowd? It seems to me she has come to the right place if she wanted to promote a record among music lovers. Everyone just wants everything for free I tell you...

Muso's picture

- and it's 200 because that's pretty much the minimum anybody will press. I agree: I have no problem with the price tag. Forget about the recording costs, just having the finished mixes mastered for LP, lacquers cut and parts made, pressing, and sleeves is very expensive per unit on a small run of 200. 30 bucks isn't out of line at all.

I wish more new artists would do this.

Kurt's picture

Good luck!

hiendfan's picture

I Like it. The lyrics, the arrangements and the uprocessed presentation works for me.

teachscience's picture

Right up my alley. Gritty, simple recording with nice lyrics. Hope she makes it.

AnalogJ's picture

She is really pitchy at times. The first tune is a simple 2 chord structure. But she keeps hitting north of the notes of the scale. If it's not intentional, it's really irritating to my ears (and I'm a musician with perfect pitch). It sounds more like a Florence Foster Jenkins type project to my ears.

Compositionally, again the first tune is pretty simple and not as lyrically arresting as, say, "Walk On The Wild Side". The second tune doesn't really have a good hook. It's repetitive without being clever.

Thumbs down for me. Sorry.

vinyl listener's picture

i concur.
one listen sufficed.

madfloyd's picture

I noticed that too, but somehow I got past it (maybe she locked in a bit more as the song progressed) and really liked her voice and the mood of the songs.

So I bought it.

texanalog's picture


AnalogJ's picture

I think auto-tune would only make it worse.

texanalog's picture

Why would it make it worse? Auto-tune would address the pitchy-ness and make her attempt at sing-song more acceptable, especially since her voice was presented in stark relief against the sparce instrumental background.

AnalogJ's picture

Auto-tune is largely awful. I hear it used quite often and it sounds terrible to my ears. Unless it's being used as a sound effect (a la Daft Punk), it is just a partial mask for mediocre singers like Britney Spears.

Wimbo's picture

I hope she does well.
I bought "Cold Fact" back in the early 70's. Australia loved Rodriguez back then. This lady could be similar.

Superfuzz's picture

The two tracks sounded nice - I ordered the EP.

audiophile01's picture

She is Streaming on Tidal if you want to have a good listen before you buy the Vinyl. Leaving it on a loop , that way she might get enough royalties for a cup of coffee by the end of the Month....

xtcfan80's picture

Very interesting stuff. And great job Michael for reading her email listening and promoting an artist doing it her own way. And good for Sophia to be hip enough to find Michael and Analog Planet and the audiophile community and promote herself. Would love to hear this at RMAF 2016 in Denver on a mega-buck system, maybe in one of the Audio Alternative rooms.

xtcfan80's picture

The trumpet sounds on the second tune kind of reminds me of XTC's tune "River of Orchids" a complement to be sure…

P. Stoned's picture

When someone is tonedeaf... Can he/she still be considered a singer?
I think not.

Muso's picture

OK, on the first one she's hitting sharp, which is common for less-than-experienced singers when they are singing near the bottom of their vocal range. She's down in Fiona Apple territory and it's not her optimum range. The rest of the tunes are in better keys for her and she sings them fine. Nevertheless, a far cry from tone deaf.

I am a bit surprised the first one made it through that way given she sings well on the other songs. She has a nice voice.

Joffa's picture

I like it. I wish her the best.This is not normally the sort of music I listen to. there is something about this though...

Jim Tavegia's picture

I would be interested to know how the tracks were recorded and then mix down in what formats.

I had been working on some 23/`192 tracking ovver the last few days and really like the "analog sound" it brings IMHO The clarity's remarkable with good mic res and miss....and you can make the "sounds" what ever flavor you want them to be. I would not say it is greatly more detailed than 24/96, but I know I have captured more. I would love to hear some 24/192 tracking pressed to vinyl and give than at listen.

She is definitely someone to keep the link to her website and see what the future holds.

Is the hum in the background this issue you talked about in your most recent Stereophile column?

Thanks for sharing and giving her a listen.

Saburo's picture

More like Fionna Apple.

Lazer's picture

It sounds fantastic. Sophia even personalized and signed the inner sleeve for me. I thought that was a great touch. Of course I cleaned the vinyl and replaced the inner sleeve with a mofi sleeve, then added an outer sleeve and put the signed original inner sleeve inside the outer. Then I played the record and was floored by the quality of the pressing. Dead quiet vinyl, with astonishingly deep and wide soundstage and precise images. The quality, especially for an unknown artist, blew me away.

Superfuzz's picture

I received mine yesterday also, personalized too. And I agree about the sound.... really good, better than I was expecting.

kruhlin's picture

Arrived today, poured a drink, let it run and repeated. Very nice and well worth the $30. I do enjoy the sparse arrangements and her voice. Wish her well.

the matching mole's picture

Good stuff, thanks for sharing it, Mikey. I'm a fan of similar singers, like Lera Lynn and Essie Jain. And Ms. Pfister has a powerful strong voice, like Polly Jean Harvey, which is always a good thing.

Devil Doc's picture

Not anyone good,anyway

Muso's picture

So true! The ones who are actually good seem to get hired before they graduate.

teachscience's picture

I'm quite pleased with the quality of the product. The vinyl is nicely pressed, very quiet, and musically this is very nicely done. $30.00 well spent.

bleachbro's picture

Very creative. I'd bet the vocal is in it's original key, and the track is a half step down. I'd also bet it was a completely intentional choice to add tension to the lyric. Probably challenging to perform live though! :)

Trius's picture

Five years later I have discovered Pfister, thanks to Janna’s YouTube video of the Vince Rossi/Harbeth NY Audio Show demo. One of the tracks played was Living in the Grey from her follow-up album, Birdcage. Sophia is wonderful and I’m hoping she has a long career.