Beth Jeans Houghton is a tough artist to pigeonhole since she often sounds like 20 artists at once. When she’s swept up in a musical sugar high, she echoes Kate Bush’s whimsical art-rock theatricality; and in more meditative moments, her breathy, operatic vocal quiver calls to mind My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden. Accordingly, her debut full-length Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose is all over the map sonically as well: “Humble Digs” marries banjo plucks to orchestral flourishes, creating a head-rush of color; “Sweet Tooth Bird” pits crackling piano against “Penny Lane” trumpets and a mountain of vocal harmonies. Houghton is a versatile, technically proficient singer – she jumps octaves like a track star would hurdles, scurrying around wearing halos of angelic vibrato. She’s also unflinchingly precious, so her best songs utilize perky, layered arrangements to keep her from drifting too far into her own head. “The Barely Skinny Bone Tree” is beautiful, its widescreen kitchen sink backdrop perfectly tailored to score the emotional climax scene for some big-budget flick. But one track later, on the galloping “Liliputt,” she’s back in her major-key sweet-spot, fluttering in clouds of atmospheric harmony over dollops of guitar and violin. She’s a jigsaw puzzle artist. Originality may not be her strong suit, but the impressive range of this rewarding debut suggests she’ll be putting pieces together for years to come.
By J. Edward Keyes on 02.28.12 in Spotlights
Man. There are just so many new records today. Also, I think about halfway through this, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Trust, TRST: Behind the year's worst album cover is one of the year's best records. Super go...
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