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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