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Ali Handal
Breathing Underwater
by Karla Ash

Ali Handal ( has dated too many lousy men; I know the feeling. I honestly cannot imagine too many guys listening to her latest album Breathing Underwater. It’s not that the songs are male-hating shouts of anger, but it’s a very feminine record. The lyrics deal with staying in relationships that are either one-sided (“You Mean That Much to Me,” “Breathing Underwater”) or gradually breaking into pieces (“If Only”). Even her warmest, most sentimental tracks (“I Miss You,” “On My Own”) are about trying to move on and leave the past behind. Handal has a delicate voice, sometimes resembling Jewel. However, she has more emotional depth and stylistic range. Her music here is relatively quiet as if she’s singing in front of a fireplace on a lonely, rain-swept evening.

Handal has had some of her tunes played on TV dramas, and they are certainly appropriate for them. Again, these are songs for women; they’re not pissed-off rockers that might cross over to a jock or two. They’re realistic in their depictions of the dating life, especially “If Only” with its revealing lyrics: “I’m not really in the mood for him tonight/But it’s easier to put out than put up a fight.” There are certainly plenty of us who can relate to bitter confessions such as that. But not everything on
Breathing Underwater is about guys. “Ashes to Ashes” is a heartbreaking tribute to Handal's late grandfather, and there are gentle tracks for her mother and little sister, neither of which will appeal to men. When Breathing Underwater is playing, it’s ladies’ night.