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GHOST OF SUMMER SUNS, SPIDER, WATSON TWINS -- ALBUM REVIEWS

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THE WATSON TWINS

'lhlkingto lttu.'Ihlkingb 'l_k' { valcuLR o REcoRDS/EM| } In |une 2oo9, identicaltwin sisters Chandra and Leigh Watson disapPearedinto a remote cabin near Yosemite National Park, along with Producers Rus' sell Pollard and f . Soda.With no interruPtions, no television,

changed. On Talkingto You, rhe Watsons, who on Past Proiects ltke Rabbit Fur Coat, with |ennY Lewis, have tended toward intricate, enhvi ned harmon ies, chose instead to take turns as lead vocalist. While it's difficult to differentiate between the sisters, each track has a newfound vocal potency derived from each singer's individual resPonsibil'

percussion plaYsoffa rush of |ames. And the surefire crowdarPeggio, pleaser" U-N-ME" encomPasses childlike song, guitar shatterand whistles before the paramount vocals that fans ing into bursts of bamboo and have come to exPect from the brass monkeY rattle; elsewhere, singers, packagedneatlY into the grouP taPs into an almosta two-minute PoP format that hardcore aggressionwith "Nin asks the question "Did You ever Na Yama" and a dubbY skank believe in mel" If You didn't on "Agacim." Throughout, before, you will now.
-C LA IR E @ TH E N A ME GA ME : B efore theY w ere the Watson Tw i ns, C handra and Lei gh w ere know n as B l ack S w an. A S H TON

the human voice-ululating' soaring, chanting, and lulling-rivals the rhYthm section for dominance. OOIOO isn't alone in its ethnotronic sonic exPlorations' But the quartet's exPeriments remain some of the most compelling and unharnessed' Although it falters at times, the band is intent on coniuring a powerful magic'
_ K IM B E R LY C H U N

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{r r R r r r J o c K E Y } Heartening to wild minds, sonic environmentalists, and advocates offree rock everywhere, the borders of OOIOO's forest just keep widening-that much is clear in the iunglY exPanseof Armonico Hewa,Ihe sixth album from Boredoms drummer Yoshimi's all-female foursome. Much like OOIOO's Previous long-player,zoo6's Taiga, whose name refers to both the "forest" and "big river" in Russian and |apanese, resPectivelY, Armonico Hewa also draws from two divergent parts ofthe globe, fusing Spanish and Swahili to come up with a PhraseOOIOO roughly defines as "air in a harmonious state." Armonico Hewais borne aloft by an ecstatic lazzsoundrePlete with celestial sYnth chords, but it's got some folkY, Primal beats that are usuas well-rhythms found at faPanese folk ally only and no phones, the grouP spun the sisters' lYrics and song skeleton s into Talking to You, Tal.kingto Me, lhe Watson Twins' sophomore release,an ambitious amalgam of classic soul and lascivious groove that marks an unexPected deParture from their celebratedAmericana. And that's not all that's ity as lead, which allows both to function as true frontwomen. "Modern Man" sets the Pace from the get-go with a raPid-fire snare beat and fascinating calland-responsehook throughout. "Savin'You' and "Snow Canyons" celebratethe vocalists' folk roots, while "Midnight" pays homage to the sassY, blues-tinged legacYof Etta festivals and abroad at taiko concerts. More than PerhaPS any other )aPanesePostPunk group, OOIOO is drawing a line connecting its country's indigenous music to Africa's. But those lands are onlY two starting Points for the manically creative outfit's breed of proggish psYchedelia.On "Polacca," clattering South Asian

@ WHILECONSUMING: LISTEN n V e g e t a r i a n a b e m o n och o ck- fu l l m o f m y s t e r i o u s a g i c m u sh r o o m s ,w i t h a g l a s so f sPa r kl i n g s a k em o o n s h i n e .

QUASI
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{x t r r n o c r s r a R s } As NPR music critic Carrie Brownstein said of the new offering from Portland, Oregon's Quasi, "It's obliter' ated and unstuffed the cushionY music that's been singing me to sleep for the Past few Years' Personally, I'm well rested and readYto move on." I agree,and Brownstein not iust because and Quasi drummer fanet Weiss rocked mY face off when they were in Sleater-KinneY together. If you, too, are getting just a little tired of the twee-nessof much of what indie rock has offered us these Past few Years, American Gongwill cure what ails you. The trio of Weiss, Sam Coomes (of Heatmiser and Pink Mountain), and |oanna Bolme (of StePhen Malkmus and the |icks) starts Gongoff I s P R r N G . l o r s s u Ex o .4 5 b i tch t z;

with a gdtty, raw rock sound that continues throughout the album, even on the Ben Folds Five-esque "Everything and Nothing at A11"and the aptlY named "Laissez Les Bon TemPs Roulez." Though tempos and styles change frequently throughout American Gong, the feeling of a band that got its start in the grunge-fueled '9os and has lived to tell the kids about it in the brand-new 'ros endures. Quasi sounds like every co you-or at least I-bought in the mid-'9os, if you could somehow make it cool again. (l'm looking aIyou, SuPer' unknown.)lf this recordis setting the trend for the new decade,let's bang rhe Gongand get 1t on. -KE L SEY wAL LAc E
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TEGANAND SARA
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On their last tlvo albums, Canadian twins Tegan and Sara Quin sliced and diced songs with the urgency and flair of knife-wielding Benihana chefs. Now on their sixth album, they sound like someone stuck corks on the tips of their knives and-to make extra sure they avoided the musicai cutting edge-replaced real food for the ears with lumpy Play-Doh fakes. This can't be pinned on producers Chris Walla and Howard Redekopp,since the former produced their excellent last album, The Con, and the latter helped produce their zoo4 breakthrough , SoJealous.Iegan and Sarathemselvesmust have been interested in recording songs that donltbeg to be turned up so loud you can't hear your own voice shouting along with them. This cloudy album's silver lining is what's revealedwhen there are no crescendosto get

you know it now." Tegan and Sara'ssound may change, but their unique shared/split perspectivewill a l w a y sr e m a i n , a s th e y si n g i n "Don't Rush": "One waY or another/ I'11find my way to cover/ I sing to find my other/ Sing to find my/ One way mY lovelY cover/ other/ They find restless You sing to another."
_J IIV @ SU R PR ISIN G SO N IC A N TE G E D BU R LIN GAM E

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Azure Rayand The Postal ENTS: Service.

GHOSTOF SUNS SUMMER
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{r N o r p r r . r o r N r } Elizabeth Elkins, the Powerhouse frontwoman of The Swear, carved a niche for herself in the Atlanta rock scene with a decadeofcrunchy bar chords, perfectly disheveied vocals, and ravaging live performances. While The Swear has garnered everything frorn a Rolling Stone nod to dates on the Vans Warped Tour, it's the talented Ms. Elkins's surprising decision to go it alone that has done her the most justice. Ghost of Summer Suns, the Alabama native's solo project, gives her Punkrock muscles a break; instead, it offers up a new sqde that's instrumentally complex and roomy enough to showcaseher capacity as a lyricist. The result is a self-titled, debut rP that iTunes-released exemplifies a powerfully deconstructed postpunk methodologY while featuring a more vocallY delicate side of Elkins. The slow spacious "Winter Card" tips its hat to Mazzy Star,but brings a chorus every bit as big and poignant as Concrete Blonde's"joey." "White Coats," track, the rp's most passionate r e c a l l st h e v o r a c i o u sm u si n g s o f l a n C u r t i s a n d .l o YD i vi si o n

W HO ' S N E X T ? : Q u a s i p l a ye d a n ent ire s h o w o f W h o c o v er s th is pas t New Y e a r ' s E v e . T o mm Y, c an y ou h e a r m e ?

CAETHUA
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Ipnrs r Rv,q rrox] It's no surprise that the first disc of this two-cD proiect ts titled "No Man's Land." Portter land, Oregon sin ger-songwri Clare Adrienne Cameron Hubbard, working under the name Caethua,is the clear center of this tapestry ofPiano, guitar, sparsebeats, and synthetic textures. From the first z7-minute co, "No Man's Land," to the zS-minute second one, "Into the Dog-Dayed Night," The LongAfernoon of Earth gives t he impre ssionof e nte r ing a distinctly personal one-woman world, a spooky realm of-well, let's call it "femmetronica." And judging from recent b releas es y kind red som et im ePortlanders Grouper and Inca Ore, it's genuinely fruitful territory. Imagine the flying-solo
7 6 I b i t ch F E MrN rsr R EspoNsE

laptop jock hooking up with the folkie girl with a guitar: These are their daughters. Hubbard works diligentlY against a subtle backdrop of noise and found sound, iuxtaposing a taste for drone (done to darkly exquisite effect on the disquieting "The Old Ones Go First" and the elegiac "DaY Break") with an appreciation for sea shanties and traditional folk forms (as on "Sons of the Hounds"). And perhapsthat's the key to Hubbard's powerthe way she iniects the familiar with the strange, and the unsettling with a rough elegance. - K. C.
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caught up in, no vocal equivalents of Wonder Woman's iariat grabbing you through the speakers,and no roilercoaster melodies: just the subtie beauty of Tegan and Sara'smostly inscrutable lyrics. Their staple, the angsty love song, writhes with contradictory sentiments, and the occasionalwhiffof social commentary passes so briefly you can't follow its scent. (The single "Hell," for instance, could be a retort to gay-damning Christians, an obtuse personal story, or both). B u t i l a l l c o m e s t o g e t h e ri n their hypnotic, phonetic, and grammatical looping. Gertrude Stein would be proud of the opening lines of "Sentimental Tirne": "You in a simple gray coat in a simple white room/ Oh now you know you know it now/ And so now you know

VEHICULAR COUNTERPART A hovercraft made of driftwood, honey, scrap metal, and ferns-a o tva m a lg a m o f o r g a n ic materi al s di a n d m a ss- m a n u fa ctu r ed scards.

To PoP cuLr uRE

as it bids a final farewellto a destructivelover.And the opening track, "Gifted," might be the truest blend of Elkins's past and present:The artist's familiar, crestfallenvoiceis set againsta wall of angelicharmonies and an accessible chorus. Compellingthroughout, Ghost of SummerSunsprovesthat Elkins's departurefrom her past is a stepin the right direct io n .- c.l.
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worldi Wakeup and stop sleeping/ Wake up, Africal Wakeup and stopblaming,"shesings, like the true heir to Bob Marley. Wakeup, indeed:The world needsto listen to this passionatevoice. x. c. M

LISTENlF YOU LIKE: Erykah Badu,Laur y nHill,and Ni n a Simone*aswell as Bjork,Massive Attack,and Portishead.

LISTEN YOU LIKE: Fyodor lF Dostoevsky, Tori Amos, Francis Bacon,The National.

FIELDS THESEVEN OFAPHELION
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it Leave to The SevenFieldsof Aphelionto find warmth and ('tnrcrelt, Jutttilt' wonder in a trvinkling plane of {v o Ma va/ oec oN/ r pr c } synths,dottedwith an almost sprinkling of Kudosto the bravespirit willing nostalgic-sounding piano,as she doeson to delvesimultaneouslyinto the acoustic " "WildflowerWood. earthydepths of sweetsoul mu- Peiphery's sic and the adventurousreaches You can usually find this mysteof electronica. African-German riously monikeredlady serenely artist Nnekamanages this jugdoing her part, live, to generate gling actwith a confidencethat BlackMoth SuperRainbow's the furious cascades psychedelia. of beliesher short tenure in Her zoo6 debut, But part that cloud ofconfetti musicworld. Victimof Truth,garneredpraise and SevenFieldsofAphelions itself. for its miasma of conscious delicatetouch reveals lyricism and riveting loops, and On this, her solodebut,she BMSR'shead-bobbing now her first stateside release, eschews Concrete looks to build and booty-bumpingfor gentle Jungle, on that foundation. meditationsthat threatento There's so much here to consignher to the New Age grotto/ghetto.But she'd love:the smoky toasts,strafed likely be proud to find herself by swoopingaccordion,ofthe "Showin' shelvedalongsideVangelisand opening overture, Tracks AndreasVollenweider. Love."The sinuous,hipswivelingand fi nger-snapping like " Saturation:Arrhythmia" nes of "The Uncomfortable tap a rich, sparkling space-rock Truth," and the grimy twovein, and compositionssuch as "Sunburst Chemicals"flirt with tone pop of"Kangpe."Though drone in a way that Nnekamakesher home in both sacramental fans of Om and Six Organsof Lagosand Hamburg, her heart is clearlywith Mother Africa: Admittancewould appreciate. Periphery comesoff as more Bend an ear toward the burthan a simple collectionof bling, joyful Afropop of"From compositions.Rather,it's a Africa z U" and the tenderseriesof tough ballad "Africans,"which carefully sequenced entreatsher countrywomenand sonic moods,as SevenFields of Aphelion takesthe listener -men to take responsibilityfor themselves, despitethe colonial from "FeverSleep,"which injusticesof the past:"Wakeup, throbs with subterranean

NNEKA

pulses and drifts of moaning synth, to "Lake Feet," which rises to the fore like a radiantly ambient sunrise. Clich6 or no, it's a journey-one worth taking again and again. - x. c . w PERFECT FOR:Quiet broods in your sleek,synthetic,snowwhite mod pod, in front of a gently flickeringfaux fireplace.

JOSEPHINE FOSTER
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{ rrnE } Youve probablyseenfosephine Foster'sname bandied around freak-folk/ New Weird America circles,but who suspectedshehad such music bottledup within herl With her secondalbum. Fostershows

that she'sdefinitelyfollowing her own muse.That dark bodyhappensto be poet EmilY an Dickinson, already inspira' tion to performersas disParate Aaron Copland as composer CarlaBruni. and chanteuse And throughout the sprawlAs ing Graphic a Star,the lady from Amherst, Masenigma provesherselfwell sachusetts worth revisiting. of the chooses sParest Foster on the album's accompaniment z6 tracks,mainly acoustic guitar and, at times, nothing at all. But GrophicAs a Starisfar from monochromatic.Foster embraces Buffalo Spring' a field-esque melody,driven by acousticguitar and harmonica wail, to ornament the sharply powerful "My Life Had Stood
sP nri l c.to I rssu: xo.46 bi tc h I z z

winter release.It's not just titles like "fuly Flame" and "Summer is the Champion" that betray its seasonalallegiance; you don't need more than r5 secondsoflistening to "Life Is Good Blues" to feel the buzz ofwarm and irresponsible afternoons. From the serenely heartbreaking opener, "I Can See Your Tiacks" (featuring the distinctive howl of My Morning Jacket's|im James),to the hopeful chorus of "WideEyed, Legless,"it seems indecent to listen to July Flamein the cold, bleak first days of a new decade. Veirs collaborates once more with beau/producer Tucker Martine, and you can hear the intimate production process (which included recording friends in their house-cumstudio) on every track. It yields a full, glowing sound, with every bell and whistle in its proper place. The poppy orchestral stylings Martine has honed with other artists (Sufian Stevens,The Decemberists) are used sparingly and effectively here: "Silo Song" pits banio against fiddle and horns against timpani, but instead of competing, the instruments complement slowly, until they finally soar.And Veirs'slithe voice is capable of adding both melancholy and naivet6 to her songs, dipping from the Rimbaudinspired "Sleeper in the Valley" to the breezy "Sun Is King," whose dreamy, metered charm evokes Neil Young's "Harvest

titles of her well-known tracks, sounding at times like a teenage fangirl ("It would be so cool to be like, be like Carol Kaye"). Bfi July Flame proves thal Veirs isn't doing so bad herself.
_KJ ER ST IN J O H N SO N

FACTOR:6for the SING-ALONG s h o w e r , 4o n t h e b u s ,9 f o r a long car ride.

are reverent, gorgeous renderings by Ron Sexsmith ("Crayon Angel") and Frida Hlvtinen ("|esusWas a CrossMaker"), as well as more radical reworkings: Daniel Rossenof Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles gives "Waterfall"a shimmering, ecstatic makeover, and Tiembling Blue Stars injects tremulous new drama into "Lady-O." Deeper deconstruction jobs veer between the intriguing (Final Fantasybreaks "The Donor" down to its Bach-like components)and iffy (Marissa Nadler and Biack Hole Infinity take an irreverent path, redoing "The Kiss" as a synth-goth death drone, denuding the song o f m e l o d y ) .I t 's a n e xp a n si ve collection, and its many points ofview underscore the power and legacy of Sill's writing. This angel's wings are wide enough to shelter-and inspire-all. -K.C.
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VARIOUS ARTISTS
('ratnn o.[.Iudu' .lngel:.t Sill Tribule to lltt'Ilrtsit'

{a v r R r c n No u s r } Who was |udee Silll According to '6os and '7os hit songwriter/ L.A. rock fixture |D Souther, "She was light years ahead of most of us." As he told Laurel Canyon rhapsodizer Barney Hoskyns, "|ackson Browne was the furthest along as far as having learned songwriting, but then I met fudee and I thought, 'Fuck, man, she's school for all of us."' But though Sill was the first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum label and had her songs covered by The Turtles and Graham Nash, she never quite achievedthe successshe seemeddestinedfor during her lifetime. So it follows that fellow musicians have been the ones to keep Sill's songs alive, rediscovering her preternaturally inspired tunes and covering her again and again in the years since her faIaI ry79 overdose. Crayon Angel gathers a diverse array ofthe songwriter's notable fans, and the result is a veritable treasure trove for Sill aficionados. Bill Callahan and Beth Orton, the latter waxing particularly soulful, supple, and Sill-like,tacklepreviously unrecorded Sill songs like "Reach for the Sky" and "For a Rainbow." ("Rainbow" was cowritten by onetime Sill paramour Lal Baum, greatgrandson of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum). There

a Loaded Gun." Yet she also avoidsthe obvious,stripping it all down to her single, timorous, and hair-raisingly haunting falsetto on "Wild NightsWild Nights!" Other numbers, like "I SeeThee Better in the Dark" rival the chilling, neargothic delicacy ofFoster's folk contemporary Marissa Nadler, and songs such as "Eden Is That Old-Fashioned House" creak with nostalgic blues. Uncompromising in its vision. monumental in its breadth, Graphic As a Star will have Foster's followers wondering what old verse she'll next polish off and make new. - x . c w MOSTLIKELY TO MUSICIANS FOSTER HAVEA JOSEPHINE S H RIN E: nn aNe wso m , Joa B eckyStark,Ma rieeSiou x , and A le la Dia ne .

TASTES LIKE:A smorgasbord o f q u i r k y A m e r i c a no r i g i n a l s l i k e P e p s i - C o l a a ke a n d a l p h a c b e t - s o u pm e a t l o a l r e d o n e b y star chefs.

SPIDER
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n {s p r o e n s o r c s e c o R o s} |ane Herships, under the stage moniker Spider, follows her acclaimed zoo6 release, The Way to Bitter Lake, with a sophomore effort chock-full of the same sparse, subtle folk. But with the addition of a full band and rich, buttery harmonies, the new releaseis more comPlex, imbuing the sound with a fresh power and musical density. Herships's slow-burning, soulful vocals shine on the opener, "White Snake," whose fingerpicked guitar riff is vaguely reminiscent of Tommy fames and the Shondells' "Crimson And Clover." The sexy,reverbheary "Snow Melts in Summer"

Moon." And then there's "Carol Kaye," a tribute to the legend.luIl'Irlante ary studio bassist that comes Re { Rlvt N va RcrlNGBAND c oRos } toward the end of the album. Veirs adoringly skips through The only problem with the a litany of Kaye's accomplishlatest bright-but-haunting new ments, from her rumored album from Portland singerro,ooo-sessioncareerto the songwriter Laura Veirs is its

LAURAYEIRS

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as it bids a final farewell to a destructive lover. And the "Cifted ," mig ht o p ening tra cl<. be the truest blend of Elkins's past and present: The artist's familiar, crestfallen voice is set against a wall of angelic harmonies and an accessiblechorus. Compelling throughout, Ghost proves that of Summer Suzls Elkins's departure from her past is a step in the right direct 1 o n.-c.A .
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world/ Wake up and stop sleepingl Wake up, Africa/ Wake up and stop blaming," she sings, like the true heir to Bob Marley. Wake up, indeed: The world needsto listen to this passronate voice.- x. c . LISTEN YOU LIKE:Erykah lF Badu,Laur y nHill,and Nin a Sim one- aswell as Bjor k ,M a s s iv e At t ac k ,and Por t is he a d .

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LISTEN YOULIKE:Fyodor lF D ost oevsky, ri Amo s.Fra nc is To B a con,T he Natio na l.

FIELDS THESEVEN OF APHELION
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r { c;'.rv rac E} Leaveit to The SevenFields of Aphelion to find warmth and wonder in a twinkling plane of synths, dotted with an almost nostalgic-soundingsprinkling of acousticpiano, as she does on Periphery' "Wildfl ower Wood. " s You can usually find this mysteriously monikered lady serenely doing her part, live, to generate Black Moth Super Rainbow's furious cascades psychedelia. of But part that cloud ofconfetti and SevenFields ofAphelion's delicate touch reveals itself. On this, her solo debut, she eschews BM SR's head-bobbing and booty-bumping for gentle meditations that threaten to consign her to the New Age grotto/ghetto. But she'd like1ybe proud to find herself shelved alongside Vangelis and Andreas Vollenweider. Tracks like "Saturation: Arrhythmia" tap a rich, sparkling space-rock vein, and compositions such as "Sunburst Chemicals" flirt with sacramental drone in a way that fans of Om and Six Organs of Admittance would appreciate. Periphery comes off as more than a simple collection of compositions. Rather,it's a carefully sequencedseries of sonic moods, as SevenFields of Aphelion takes the listener f r om "Fev erSleep. "whic h throbs with subterranearr

NNEKA
( ottt't't'le,Jun!!le

i v o vav r, ine co r.i/rprc] Kudos to the brave spirit willing to delve simultaneously into the earthy depths of sweet soul music and the adventurous reaches of electronica. African-German man ag esthis i uga r tisl Nnel<a gling act with a confidence that belies her short tenure in the music world. Her zoo6 debut, Victim ofTruth. garnered praise for its miasma of conscious l y ricism and rive ting lo op s .and re n orl her f irst sta teside lea s e, Concrete Jungle,looks to build on that foundation. There's so much here to love: the smoky toasts, strafed by swooping accordion, ofthe opening overture, "Showin' Love"' The sinuous, hipswiveling and finger-snapping nas of "The Uncomfortable Truth," and the grimy twol o n e pop o f "l(a ng pe ."Tho ugh Nneka makes her home in both Lagos and Hamburg, her heart is clearly with Mother Africa: Bend an ear toward the burbling, joyful Afropop of"From Africa z U" and the tendertough ballad'Africans," which entreats her countrlvomen and -men to take responsibilityfor themselves, despite the colonial injustices of the past: "Wake up,

p u l s e sa n d d r i f t s o f m o a n i n g synth, to "Lake Feet," which rises to the fore like a radiantly ambient sunrise. Clich6 or no, it's a journey-one worth taking again and again. - r. c .
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PERFECT FOR:Quiet broods in y o u r s l e e k ,s y n t h e t i c , n o w s white mod pod, in front of a g e n t l y f l i c k e r i n gf a u x f i r e p l a c e .

that she's definitely following her own muse. That dark body happens to be poet Emily Dickinson, already an inspiration to performers as disparate as composer Aaron Copland and chanteuse Carla Bruni. And throughout the sprawling CraphicAs a SIar.the lady enigma from Amherst, Massachusettsproves herself well worth revisiting. Foster choosesthe sparest of accompaniment on the album's z6 tracks, mainly acoustic guitar and, at times, nothing at all. But Graphic As a Star is far from monochromatic. Foster embraces a Buffalo Springfield-esque melody.driven by acoustic guitar and harmonrca w a i l . t o o r n a m e n t t h e sh a r p l y powerful "My Life Had Stood

JOSEPHINE FOSTER
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{r n i , i You've probably seen josephine Foster'sname bandied around freak-folk/New Weird America circles, but who suspectedshe had such music bottled up within herl With her second album, Foster shows

sP R rxc.l o I rssuE N o,46

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