Friday, March 16, 2007

Sweetness and light and dark

Linda Draper

Full Moon - Linda Draper

- Linda Draper

Seven Black Crows
- Linda Draper

I was tempted at the end of last year to compose, in addition to favorite song and album lists, a list of previously released songs I first heard in 2006. I didn't, but if I had, my list certainly would have included near the top a number by Linda Draper called "Seven Black Crows" (from her 2005 album One Two Three Four). A somber thematic companion to Sufjan Stevens' "Casimir Pulaski Day," (there too a loved one lies dying in a hospital, there too birds serve as objective correlatives), the song showcases Draper's extraordinary incandescent bulb of a voice, a voice capable of precise, controlled phrasing as well as loose and breezy octave swings.

This bright warm instrument is the centerpiece of all her songs and is as arresting as the lunar body she invokes in "Full Moon." In this, maybe the loveliest song on Draper's
forthcoming album Keepsake (May 8 on Planting Seeds), her voice leaps from stepping stone to stone on a black pool of feverish violin and bass. And thumb-smudged snapshots (skies trapped behind clouds, moons floating in heads) tell a mood -- an encircling, damp cotton wool sleep state -- more than a story. Despite its title, "Shine," which makes exquisite use of Draper's double-tracked voice, also walks after midnight, its title referring to stars that shine "like turpentine," stars that shine "for nobody." Quiet lyrical thorns like these keep Draper's songs -- many about that moment of realization that love has ended -- interesting, interrupting the often lulling, lapping rhythm of her guitar. They, in fact, prevent the album from falling too far into the "pretty" trap of too many MOR songstresses. It's unexpectedly uneasy listening.

Linda Draper's website.

These are, incidentally, very good days for female singer-songwritery types. If you are so inclined (and even if you aren't, I beg you to be open-minded), in addition to Linda Draper, I strongly recommend Julie Doiron's Woke Myself Up (Amazon, eMusic) and Essie Jain's We Made This Ourselves (Amazon, eMusic). These are two of my favorite records thus far this year.

Completely unrelated:

Last's night's premiere of
Andy Barker, P.I. was just as funny and charming as I'd hoped/anticipated. Which means it will be canceled after five episodes. Catch it while you can!


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