wears the trousers magazine


a fine frenzy: bomb in a birdcage (2009)
September 9, 2009, 1:14 pm
Filed under: album, mp3, review, video | Tags: , , , ,

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A Fine Frenzy
Bomb In A Birdcage •••½
Virgin 

Seattle-born songstress Alison Sudol – who goes by the Shakespeare-borrowing stage name A Fine Frenzy – returns with her second album Bomb In A Birdcage, two years after her debut One Cell In The Sea earned both critical acclaim and mild commercial success (cracking the Billboard 100) and secured the redhead licensing spots in various US TV ratings behemoths. That’s all well and good for the bank balance but isn’t any real mark of artistic success – thankfully, though, Bomb In A Birdcage delivers on that score. A reasonably concise album, the songs make their points directly and succinctly while simultaneously allowing Sudol the room to display the extent of her writing and performance skills. More pertinently, it is a much livelier affair with less of the whimsical balladry of its predecessor and more instantaneous melodic appeal.

Opener ‘What I Wouldn’t Do’ is an immediate case in point, with its fast finger-picked guitar building into a tight arrangement with handclaps and subtle backing vocals. With a lively, bouncy sound that even factors in whistles among the slight touches of piano, it is Sudol’s strong and attractive voice – smoky and sexy – that really shines. ‘New Heights’ and ‘Electric Twist’ keep the bar raised high. The former boasts an interesting rhythmic style, emerging as an album highlight with its haunting, wispy melodies wrapping around an atmospheric arrangement with repetitive, insistent piano notes. ‘Electric Twist’ is more robust, its sparse arrangement gathering pace around an effective chorus. Here, Sudol really opens up her vocals, with alternate yelps and whispers lying atop a hypnotic bassline.

Entering a comparative lull, Bomb In A Birdcage starts losing steam in the middle. ‘Blow Away’ is pleasant enough, but not as catchy or memorable as you might expect from a lead single, while ‘Happier’ and ‘Swan Song’ are pleasant but ordinary. ‘Elements’ is spacious and quite beautiful, but its sequencing in the midst of a raft of slow numbers means it gets lost in the shuffle on first listen. ‘The World Without’ picks up the pace, incorporating an interesting change in tempo towards the end, but it’s ‘Bird Of The Summer’ and ‘Stood Up’ that really bolster the album as it moves towards its close. ‘Bird Of The Summer’ revels in a sensual, languid melody and relaxed vocal performance that once again shines the light on Sudol’s growing versatility as a singer, while ‘Stood Up’ is more forceful with a strong, spunkier melody and vocal. The softly reflective ‘The Beacon’ closes the album in a less memorable fashion, but it’s nice enough.

Bomb In A Birdcage is not perfect, giving the sense that, while Sudol still has quite a bit of developing to do as a writer and performer, as a singer she has really found her feet here. Her impressive range and sense of diversity makes for an attractive record with some interesting flourishes in the arrangements and production, but one that would benefit from longer-lasting appeal in the melodies. Pretty moments are peppered throughout, but sometimes the melodies are so fine that they threaten to, well, blow away with any force stronger than a sighing exhalation. But ultimately this is the sound of a talented artist adding new sounds and new touches to her arsenal, all for the better.

Matt Barton
UK release date: 07/09/09; www.myspace.com/afinefrenzy

 

FREE MP3: A Fine Frenzy, ‘Blow Away’ [acoustic]

 

‘Blow Away’ 

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[…] [Caitlin Ward 7/9] 49 Amanda Blank – I Love You [Chris Catchpole 24/8] 50 A Fine Frenzy – Bomb In A Birdcage [Matt Barton […]

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