Beth Jean Houghton’s voice dips, swoops and soars across the album. It’s this wonderful instrument that carries a rare sense of wonder and whimsy throughout every possible corner of the album. Her lyrics are a wonderful mix of vivid recollection, slightly psychedelic metaphors and more straightforward wordplay. This voice unites the album in its varied sounds and drives the album forward, relentlessly yet gently.
The album’s sound is mainly folk-influenced pop, with a wide range of instruments from keyboards, ukuleles, drums, violin, cellos, guitars, xylophones, trumpets and a backing choir or three. All of these combine in a wild, beautiful cacophony of sound throughout the album, occasionally competing with one another but always supporting Beth’s voice. Whether it’s the marching beat of the drum of the opener “Sweet Tooth Bird” overlaid with celestial vocal tones or the triumphant choir rising up with the xylophone tones at the end of “Dodecahedron”, the inventive sound is crystal clear.
You can never be sure what till be coming next. Within each song volume, sound and tempo wildly veer from one extreme to the other. And while this makes most songs a chaotic ride, they never collapse into a mess. See how the minimalistic start of “Liliput” explodes into a gallop with the drum’s entry before collapsing back down with the introduction of a string quartet and finally, led by the now energetic strings, rise into a faster pace. Each change feels purposeful and natural, while every segment feels like it is given enough time to develop. It’s these effortless switches and swift development that makes the album shine above your average A-B-A structured pop bands.
So embrace the chaotic beauty of this record. And at a lean 35 minutes, it will catch your foot tapping in mid-air when it finishes. From the soulful build-up and emotional crescendo of “The Barely Skinny Bone Tree” to the sheer fun of the lilting closer “Carousel”, the album is simply sublime all the way through. It’s just the shot in the arm needed for anyone who is beginning to tire of the indie-pop genre.
Review Score: 9.0 out of 10