Artist: Emily Jane White
Album: Ode to Sentience
Label: Antenna Farm
Date: June 12, 2012
Rating: 68 / 100
There is magical gothic beauty to be found on this, White’s 3rd album. The opener Oh Katherine sets the tone for the best tracks of the album, from the delightful finger picking embellishing tracks throughout Ode to Sentience to her tasteful and economic use of string and piano accompaniment providing just the right amount of flesh to tracks like The Black Oak and Requiem Waltz. Of course, the skeleton of the album is the strength and fragility of Emily’s vocals. When a singer-songwriter (or band for that matter) is blessed with a quality voice, it is a pleasure to hear it shine through the production, rather than be drowned out in the instrumentation.
My only problem with this recording is the descent into what I’ll call ‘count-your-fingers country’ such as tracks The Cliff & Broken Words. When the ear starts to hear fiddle instead of violin; stop. When slide guitar impels you to put a grass stalk in your mouth; stop.
Having said that; there is so much more to admire on this album than to fear. There’s a wonderful foreboding quality to some of the tracks, providing a real atmosphere for the ears. This is mature composition, not the result of some fly by nighter given the keys to the orchestra by a new label. Looking forward to the next release, hopefully recorded in a run down gothic looking castle or a haunted old prison overlooking a rough ocean.
Artist: Elliott Smith
Album: Elliott Smith: an Introduction
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Rating: 74 / 100
Elliott Smith’s life was a troubled and murky pool even to the end, having died under circumstances still unresolved at age 34 in 2003. Under the surface of his gentle finger-picking guitar style, hushed vocals and Beatlesesque melodies lies a lyrically turbulent battle with relationships, mental issues and addiction. You will undoubtedly never have heard a rock singer swear so sweetly that it almost takes the venom from the words.
His recording career started with post-punk rock band Heatmiser, before a solo home-recorded tape reached a pair of ears that mattered at music label Cavity Search and his solo career was born. Unfortunately, if you are a fan, that solo career only saw five albums of material before his death. This compilation draws from all those albums plus the post-humus released album ‘From a Basement on a Hill’ (2004) and the ‘New Moon’ (2007) outtakes compilation.
That all being said, what’s it sound like? A beautiful introduction to his music if you are new to Elliott Smith, the only flaw being that it relies too heavily on the ‘Either/Or’ (1998) album. There are also no unreleased tracks here, just remixed or new mixes of Last Call, Angel in the Snow & a single version of Happiness from ‘Figure 8’ (2000), so if you’ve got it all you don’t need this. One gets the feeling though that the family trust has omitted some equally pretty and compelling tracks due to their adult content and this compilation has suffered to some extent for it.
Standout tracks; Waltz #2, Between the Bars, Pretty (Ugly Before) and Miss Misery.