Friday, July 11, 2008

Old Growth

The new Christine Fellows finally arrived last week and it’s spindly arms have entangled me back and over again. No one writes songs like she does. There have been comparisons to the Mountain Goats (John Darnielle), and I see why. They both have a dense lyrical style and an instrumental approach that leans towards the singer-songwriter warmth, instead of freak-folk obscurity that’s all the rage. More than any of these comparisons could say, the two belong in an elite group of lyricists out there. That is what their albums are all about, and it’s what I knew Nevertheless would be about. Ever so spindly, I am caught in a new place.

Nevertheless is a burgeoning adventure, spilling out of the house and into the spring overgrowth. Christine’s previous release, Paper Anniversary (2006), was a handful of diamonds, as brilliant as they were precious. Nevertheless is dramatically fleshed out in comparison, saturating in the spaces previously left hollow. Broad strings arrangements, backing choral vocals, and newly prominent drums have Christine and friends painting in the details. “What Makes the Cherry Red” is a montage at dawn, brimming over with droplets of percussion, wild strings, fluttering piano, and chirping birds. On “Yours, And With Ever Grateful Wonder” the song eventually digresses to the sound of a typewriter and spoken lyrics. She captures the opposing direction on the title track; with one of her most pop structured pieces to date. This time the songwriting has turned into a splendor all it’s own.

The lyrics are nothing less. Nevertheless is a phrase adaptation from author Marianne Moore. In the liner notes it reads that the title song and “What Are Years?” are responses to poems written by Moore, and she also references W.B. Yeats in “The Spinster’s Almanac.” The poetry penned here is breath taking, and quieter moments on the album, like “To A Prize Bird,” give her tender voice a chance to be alone with the words.

While most songs, in true Fellows form, don’t break the three-minute mark, they reveal a powerful new depth. Nevertheless showcases Christine Fellows as one of music’s lyrical heroines, wielding spells and new light. Destined to be one of this year’s best.

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