Sylvia Rose Novak has always come out swinging. This is as apparent on the opening track, “Fallout”, of her fifth studio album, A Miss/ A Masterpiece, as it is in the fact that she’s been releasing a full-length studio LP every two years since 2014. She’s been called prolific more than a handful of times but the Athens, GA bassist and songwriter simply prefers to think of herself as driven.
Met with acclaim from publications such as American Songwriter and Billboard, Novak’s aptly-named 2020 release BAD LUCK carefully bridged the gap between her former life as an Americana artist – a genre that she felt put into because the music industry and fans alike had issues boxing her into one space – and her foray into pure rock and roll. However, when it comes to A Miss/ A Masterpiece, Novak is expecting fans of her previous work to leave their preconceptions at the door and realize that the Sylvia Rose Novak they thought they knew is a Sylvia Rose Novak who never was. Novak wants to see her name in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, not the Country Music Hall of Fame. She closes her eyes and sees herself selling out Wembley, not the Ryman. A Miss/ A Masterpiece is deeply reflective of the person and the artist that Novak has always known herself to be.
It is high time the world meets her as she was meant to be introduced: in her favorite Black Sabbath tank top, black jeans, and a scuffed pair of well-loved motorcycle boots.
A Miss/ A Masterpiece, though recognizable in the sense that Sylvia is and always has been a poignant writer with an unshakable sense of rhyme scheme and brilliant imagery, is far different than anything she’s ever released before.
The drums hit hard and loud. The bass and guitars are down-tuned and heavy. And Novak’s voice, though clearly hers, hasn’t so much matured as it has tapped into something raw and real that’s been buried deep within her all of these years. A Miss/ A Masterpiece is also deeply personal; touching on her fears of nuclear fallout in “Fallout”, hitting hard notes about reproductive rights in “Stress Fracture”, offering a glimpse into bipolar depression with “Rage”, and penning a memoir about the time she was addicted to uppers via “The Window” – a track on which she also played violin for the first time since she put down the instrument in 2019 to focus solely on bass.
The bass was Novak’s first instrumental love. Though she’s multi-instrumental – having learned everything from Trombone to pedal steel over the last two decades, something about the bass has called to her since she was twelve years old and first heard the introductory bars to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Duff McKagan’s counter-melody reached out to her as if it was an old friend, a kindred rebel soul. From that moment, her relationship with the instrument has only grown and is now the bedrock for the sonic rebirth that’s so evident throughout A Miss/ A Masterpiece.