Seatbelt Blues

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Letter to Lauren Hoffman, reviewing her new album

Dear Lauren Hoffman

First off, let me thank you for sending me this beautiful album. While slightly disappointed by the packaging - I expected something more akin to the Lilas EP box - the music has yet to not blow me away (although I absolutely adored the art on the packaging - just the box threw me a little). Of course, as I've heard most of these songs before in different versions, I have a different kind of reaction than someone to whom these all are new.

The album, all in all, is fantastic. You seem to have this sort of cosmic hipster sound on this album, especially on "Another Song About the Darkness," which sounds almost like something off of the Smashing Pumpkins' Adore, dripping with this sort of late-90's electronica vibe. Then there's "Love Gone Wrong" which almost seems like a lost cut off of Megiddo, with that sort of electric elephant wail under "now like a flash.". I don't know - it kind of reminds me of something in between Megiddo and From the Blue House, and still sort of hearkens back to the Lilas. Of course, as you are so prone to do, you veer off into space by the time you "have to crawl out this hole" without the Lilas' keeping you grounded. But it works. It works really, really well.

Meanwhile, "Joshua" - which I didn't even recognize as a retitled "My Love" at first - has this brilliant torch song thing going on. Your French influences are showing; do you dig Edith Piaf any? I almost detect a little sober yeh-yeh in there - some Francoise Hardy, but maybe a little closer to modern followers Keren Ann or Carla Bruni.

Then the new "Out of the Sky, Into the Sea" combines the best of the Lucknow session with the Lilas cut. It has both the subtlety of your Indian demo and something of the force of the band's version. While it's definitely lacking in the accordian department - which is one of the things that made the Lucknow version a favorite song of mine, that accordian killed me - the hidden tambourine, mixed so low that it's almost a lost piece of ornamentation, made up for it a little, along with the twangy bass, and the brilliantly arranged strings. It sounds like this is how you always meant it to be heard. Too bad about the "uh uh uh UH!" I miss it.

Probably my biggest complaint is that "Mechanical" is nowhere to be found. Lyrically, I think you have yet to top that song, and the album may be lesser for its absence. Of course, that's like complaining that Abbey Road doesn't have "Hey Jude" on it (yes, I do rate you so highly), and while one could say it would improve the album, there's not very far to go. Choreography is a damn good album. Thanks for taking the time to give us some music.

Seatbelt Blue

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