Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anna MURPHY: "Cellar Darling"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Booyamusic/Prescription 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The folk metal vocalist Anna Murphy's (Eluveitie) first solo album is pop, rock and electronica into a wildly diverse mix, prompting comparisons to a variety of artists ranging from Florence And The Machine all the way to the likes of Jack White and Muse. You may categorize Anna's music as Alternative, although she much prefers the term Eclectica. Responsible not only for the lyrics and music, Murphy takes complete control including co-producing the album with Marco Jencarelli (Soundfarm Studios, Philipp Fankhauser, Dada Ante Portas) and even painting most of the artwork herself. The daughter of Swiss and Irish opera singers is basically the foundation of great vocals.

With a modern production and hypnotic lush keyboards/piano, it's difficult to keep track of all the different tracks (there's a total of 17), styles and genres found on 'Cellar Darling'. One minute, a track like, "Soundwaves", might just remind you of Alanis Morissette (the opening two tracks are the worst in my humble opinion). The next, "Lovelornia", the poppy, catchy, upbeat single with powerful vocals and haunting violins. Not to mention, "Out Of Control", the grand piano ballad feature background vocal chant and alternative arrangement ála Florence and Tori Amos. "Twin Flames", progressive pop metal with out of ordinary vocals. Excellent. The title track tells the story of a morbid fascination and addiction and how it's confronted when feelings like love and affection join the game. The vocals and drum/bass track of "Pale" - The Sugarcubes and Björk of old including extra hi-pitch scream and everything.

Murphy, definitely at her best on simplistic and fragile numbers such as "Epic Fail", "Island", "Red Lights", "Breathe" or "Woebegone". The latter has such a great repeated piano chord arrangement. For reasons best known only to themselves far too many artists are trying to inject as many tracks and styles as possible on their debut releases. It's perhaps the fear of not being able to record the follow-up? or the fact that debuts and their songs often are years of work where the artist goes through several different changes (music-wise). At turns "Cellar Darling" is grandiose, fragile, and perhaps just too quirky? Do not expect to find any of the folk metal of Eluveitie. It's more in the vein of Tori Amos, Björk, Florence and The Machine, the mere hint of Evanescence, and basically pure and naked Art-Pop music with the epic lyrical concept.

Final verdict: Strange and beautiful. And I do enjoy the idea of including the Peggy Lee cover "Johnny Guitar" as the closing track. Clearly not the instant hit album. You need to spin this several times and let it all sink in. Recommended.

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