Elysian Fields - Queen Of The Meadow

Album cover

  1. Black Acres (4:27)
  2. Bayonne (4:08)
  3. Bend Your Mind (3:26)
  4. Tides Of The Moon (4:21)
  5. Hearts Are Open Graves (3:15)
  6. Rope Of Weeds (6:11)
  7. Dream Within A Dream (4:39)
  8. Barely Recognize You (4:48)
  9. Fright Night (5:50)
  10. Queen Of The Meadow (4:32)
  11. Cities Will Fall (13:19)
  12. Bonus Track (0:07)

Jetset, 2001

I downloaded this on a whim from emusic.com, the third album by the New York-based band Elysian Fields. It was the vocals that immediately grabbed me. I think singer Jennifer Charles knows very well that "sexy" is the word that reviewers will pounce on to describe her style. All her heavy breathing, writhing and swooping is almost too deliberate. The same direct appeal to the sense of sex underlies a lot of the music, centred around guitarist Oren Bloedow. This plunges straight into a theatrical swathe of gypsy violin and dulcimers on "Black Acres". It's colourfully rootsy throughout, never complacently using the same arrangements.

The blues and jazz influences aren't too loungy - there's just the right amount of dirt in their sound. It brings to mind the arrangements from Jeff Buckley's "Grace", or Tom Waits, but not quite floaty enough for Mazzy Star. The album's attraction is more its sound than its songwriting, as there's slightly too much mid-quality material here. But its standouts do shine, starting with the brooding "Black Acres". A harsh organ grind fuels the closest thing this album has to a pop song, the sneering "Bend Your Mind". Bloedow takes the vocals on the darkly swaying title track. Most striking is "Rope Of Weeds", a charming tale of necrophilia at sea, based on a cough-inducingly smoky blues arrangement.

February 15, 2005

6 out of 10

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson