Plumbiferous Media

Bomb in a Birdcage - A Fine Frenzy

Sep 10th 2009
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Bomb in a Birdcage - A Fine FrenzyA Fine Frenzy
Bomb in a Birdcage
Score: 76

Bomb in a Bird­cage, released on Vir­gin, is the sec­ond full-length by A Fine Fren­zy (for­mer­ly Ali­son Mon­ro), the solo project of Ali­son Sudol. Sudol has used the two years since releas­ing her first album, One Cell in the Sea, to good effect, and it shows on Bomb in a Bird­cage. Her newest album is an improve­ment on her ear­li­er works, as well as a strong album on its own.

On much of Bomb in a Bird­cage, Sudol sep­a­rates mood from musi­cal com­plex­i­ty, allow­ing her to cre­ate tracks such as the open­ing track, “What I Would­n’t Do.” “What I Would­n’t Do” is a sim­ple track. Or more accu­rate­ly, its sound is sim­ple, and the musi­cal lines are actu­al­ly quite detailed. This abil­i­ty to pro­duce active intri­ca­cy and result in a rel­a­tive­ly relaxed track serves Sudol quite well. In fact, the least com­pelling tracks on the album are those that either get over­ly clut­tered or over­ly sim­plis­tic, pre­vent­ing high lev­els of detail.

Ali­son Sudol has­n’t lost any of the ele­gant strength which ran through her voice on One Cell in the Sea, and, on her newest album, has in fact added a new lev­el of ener­gy - par­tial­ly thanks to the more active instru­men­tals on Bomb in a Bird­cage, but large­ly due to a sim­ple evo­lu­tion of Sudol’s singing style. This devel­op­ment con­tributes to the tru­ly engag­ing style of A Fine Fren­zy’s new album, as the swoop­ing sound of Sudol’s voice approach­es sub­lim­i­ty. Alter­nate­ly whis­per­ing and cry­ing joy­ful­ly, Sudol’s impas­sioned voice brings togeth­er the ele­ments of Bomb in a Bird­cage while pro­vid­ing an appeal­ing base for them all.

Much of Bomb in a Bird­cage is lyri­cal­ly akin to A Fine Fren­zy’s debut album, One Cell in the Sea, full of the image-laden romance of songs like One Cell’s “You Picked Me.” But while tracks such as “What I Would­n’t Do” and “Swan Song” fit this well-craft­ed mold, with lines such as “It was now and we were both in the same place / Did­n’t know how to say the words / With my heart tick­ing like a bomb in a bird­cage / Left before some­one else got hurt,” some of the most ener­getic tracks on Bomb in a Bird­cage are rather sim­pler lyri­cal­ly, tend­ing towards a pop­py aes­thet­ic. While these tracks don’t quite approach the depth of the for­mer type, they’re catchi­ly filled with lines like “You give me the elec­tric twist / And it kicks / And it kicks like a pony.” With this mix­ture, added to Ali­son Sudol’s seem­ing­ly nev­er-end­ing sup­ply of ener­gy, Bomb in a Bird­cage does­n’t cease to be interesting.

Per­haps more eas­i­ly done because Sudol her­self plays almost all the ele­ments of the album, both the lyrics and vocals are expert­ly woven into the instru­men­tals, whether this requires con­trast or immer­sion. On the cap­ti­vat­ing “Elec­tric Twist,” the gui­tar (which pro­vides most of the tonal instru­men­tals on the track) and voice inter­act per­fect­ly, alter­nat­ing between semi-uni­son and a melody-coun­ter­melody rela­tion­ship. Lat­er, “The World With­out” per­fect­ly match­es lyri­cal con­clu­sions with musi­cal swells, “Bird of the Sum­mer” rep­re­sents the track title’s bird by a flute play­ing in the back­ground of the track, which also serves to pre­vent the track from grow­ing repet­i­tive, and “Stood Up” acts as proof that vocals are always a true addi­tion to Bomb in a Bird­cage’s tracks. They nev­er make the rest less inter­est­ing or sit limply on top, but instead keep the rest engag­ing while adding anoth­er ele­ment to the track.

Bomb in a Bird­cage is a log­i­cal pro­gres­sion from One Cell in the Sea - a more per­fect­ed sound, but with the same vocal and lyri­cal ele­gance that made A Fine Fren­zy stand out from the teem­ing mass of indie-pop groups. With her newest album, Ali­son Sudol has tak­en her musi­cal strengths, com­bined them with a lib­er­al dose of ener­gy, and cre­at­ed an inter­est­ing, cre­ative piece of work. It’s not per­fect, some parts could use fur­ther inno­va­tion, and it occa­sion­al­ly seems to be just a bit too processed, but it’s good.

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