Friday, September 05, 2008

Jenny Dalton - Rusalka's Umbrella

Jenny Dalton
Rusalka's Umbrella (Glossy Shoebox Productions, 2008)
Grade: B

Download: Jenny Dalton - "The Turn and the River"

Speaking of water, Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter Jenny Dalton's sophomore album, Rusalka's Umbrella is thematically saturated in high-quality H20. Umbrella is the story of Rusalka, who is described by Dalton as a "the spirit of a young woman banished to the water where she plays along the banks at night and lures the curious into her depths. The Rusalka represents the dichotomies we have lodged into the fabric of ourselves." Accompanying the album is a book titled Daughters of The Dead Sea, a almost 30-page story which further explores the myth of Rusalka.

Needless to say, Dalton is ambitious. But what about the music itself? The answer is pretty straightforward. In terms of her sound, an ethereal, folk-derived, piano-based type of music, what Dalton brings isn't exactly new. Simply put, Kate Bush and Tori Amos got here first. That said, Rusalka's is always a compelling listen, due to Dalton's shrewd arrangements and composition skills. The former allows her to introduce elements such as electronic beats and collages ("Looted Fires"), unexpected tempo changes ("Merry Go Round" and "Bad Seed"), as well touches of world music, like Eastern European folk on "The Turn of the River" and "Alionshka", two energetic elements. Also remarkable, though perhaps unintended, is the Nirvana-like repetition of certain melodic phrases and lyrics. In some of her quiet moments, Dalton has the hushed, passionate calm of Kurt Cobain, particularly on the album's title track, as well as Camus-inspired "The Fall".

Those expecting a loud, Pixies-like catharsis should obviously look elsewhere. But is because of Dalton's soft, but confident vocals, and her ability to throw the occasional sonic curveball (my favorite being alt-rock anthem "Ladies and Gentleman", whose strong rock presence is provides a change in sonic scenery at just the right time) that should keep listeners compelled. While Rusalka's sound may immediately callback her musical foremothers, the narrative ambition and solid songwriting will keep the daughters of the dead sea paying attention.

CD Release party details:

Saturday, Sept. 6th
Ritz Theater in NE Minneapolis.
Doors open 7pm; show starts 8:00pm, and it will end by about 10:30.
All ages are welcome; tickets are $10 at the door (no pre-sales).

Jenny Dalton MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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