In the realm of pop music, the label "Queen of the Acoustic Guitar" can actually work against an artist, conjuring images of cold technicality and coffeehouse fret-thumping. Kaki King has lately been saddled with that heavy mantle, but her masterful third record, Until We Felt Red, finds her distinctly uncomfortable with its stigma. Rather than laying out arpeggio after endless arpeggio, King instead indulges in strange and fascinating turns, building tiny, glistening songs out of odd chord progressions and shifting tempos. There's a kind of Cocteau Twins ethereality to Red, and the songs float mysteriously along, as fragile and intricate as snowflakes.
King has a tiny voice, but she uses it to tremendous effect. On "You Don't Have to Be Afraid", its spliced and layered, with King echoing herself over and over and over again. "Jessica" sounds like an early Lush outtake, waves of guitar washing warmly over King's tender murmur. Until We Felt Red recalls the halcyon days of 4AD, when no mood was too moody, no shadow too dark.