Thursday, July 7, 2011
Six Songs - The Finches
Dulc-i-tone/Ulrike Records UR 002
I saw this group open for Lavender Diamond a while ago and was really impressed. I say this group, yet this album was made by a largely different group. The Finches were originally a duo of Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs (vocals and guitar) and Aaron Morgan (guitar and bass) who played what might be described as folk-pop. In 2010 Riggs made an excellent CD as the Finches entitled "On Golden Hill" with a bassist and a drummer (neither of whom appear to be in the current line up of the band) which is more like folk-rock. When I saw the group in concert they were a five piece playing a delightful set of jangle-pop. This album is called "Six Songs" but there are actually seven since the LP contains a bonus track. One sure way to win me over is to put extra tracks on your LPs instead of your CDs. Another way to win me over is to have really nice packaging and this album is exceptional in that regard. Riggs is an artist as well as a musician and her records all feature her impressive artwork. This one features her artwork on the cover and inner labels as well as a bonus letterpress print suitable for framing. These things are all great, but I would have liked this record anyway just because the songs are so good. The album begins with "The Road" which describes Riggs' wanderlust. I like the way she seeks her friends' approval in song prior to leaving. "The House With Two Front Doors" is based on a melody by the Italian singer Adriano Celentano with amusing lyrics by Riggs celebrating solitary co-existence with one's neighbor. The cheerful music makes an ironic backdrop for the nearly misanthropic lyrics. Side one ends with my favorite song on the record, "Daniel's Song." It is a memorable tune to cheer up her brother who has returned to their parents' home. Side two starts with "O Goettingen!" which is about a romantic sojourn in the German town of the same name. "A Stranger Song" borrows musically from Leonard Cohen's "The Stranger Song" and Riggs' lyrics are even more depressing than Cohen's. She sweetly sings of estrangement and bitterness in what is the most powerful song on the album. "The Last Song Of 2003" warns her lover to treat her right or watch her drop him. The bonus song, "Come Sit Beside Me" is a haunting song with some lovely dobro accompaniment by David Morgan who is Aaron Morgan's father and who recorded this album. It is another one of my favorites. What I find fascinating about this record is the contrast between the alienation or coldness in so many of the lyrics and the sweet quality of the music. Even as Riggs sings of untrustworthy friends or the impermanence of love, I find myself entranced by the music. It is remarkably relaxing, even soothing. Part of that is the simplicity of the music, the stately chiming of the guitars and the slow steadiness of the rhythms. There is also something about Riggs' voice that I find disarming, it has a quality that is hard to describe, almost a cross between a precocious child and a kindergarten teacher, it is relaxed and girlish yet authoritative. She has a warm presence about her and listening to her is very reassuring. I really look forward to hearing more from her in the future. Recommended for fans of Leonard Cohen and Vashti Bunyan.