Fire & Fuss presents a classic pop musician at work. This is music aligned with soul, R&B and jazz, like the pop of the mid-'60s to the early '70s.
"Weak Like Us" has to be Costelo's signature song: "Oh light, you betrayer/Oh night, you instigator," she sings on the chorus; two short, smart lines illustrating the guilt-ridden elation that follows giving into temptation.
That song is built on a funk beat (care of Alex Porter on drums and Lukas Pearse on bass) and laced with Phil Sedore's lap steel. Having introduced the musical theme on her piano, Costelo steps confidently into a solo, too.
Later, "Is It Real," a bluesy tune with a bleary-eyed tempo, almost feels like a spiritual; a plea for release from past failure and hurt and a search for a future of hope, happiness and love. The way Costelo pitches her voice on the last word in the phrase "oh the fear" is at once heartening and heartbreaking.
Costelo has a deep voice with a brassy tint that's at home in major- and minor-chord melodies. She uses both melodic types well, maintaining connection with her listeners as she considers the push and pull between passion and reason, the contradictory impulses and actions that are so much part of being human.