Nedelle The Locksmith Cometh

[Tangram 7s; 2007]

Styles: singer/songwriter, indie rock, indie pop
Others: Liz Phair, Lois, April March

Listening to Nedelle's latest release The Locksmith Cometh, I feel like I'm a victim of a premeditated deceit. Immediately after hitting play on the ol' Crosley, I'm charmed by her sweet, if a bit timid, voice. And that's most of what I get on the ironically mellow "Fanfare." Guitar increases in the mix on "Ex-Priest," and slowly but surely, track by track, layers of strings, then percussion, then clarinet, and backing vocals are subsequently added. What happens over the course of the first half of the album (say to "Ghost Ships") is that the complexity so subtly increases that the end result is actually quite unlike what I had anticipated in the opening. Her controlled and deliberate approach to dynamics builds swiftly to the point that the come-down of "Ghost Ships" cleanses the palate for the adventurous second half.

I had too quickly expected soft melancholy solo ballads, but what I get from The Locksmith Cometh is more along the lines of sophisticated pop. I'd almost push it to say ‘60s europop. While Nedelle doesn't ever really incorporate the breezy vibe, her tasteful arrangements are present throughout, never drowning her melodies in unnecessary harmonic clutter and thus leaving them glorious in their understated elegance. The closest comparison might well be Françoise Hardy or her latter-day torch-bearers like April March.

Despite the lack of breeze, the mood never turns somber. The lyrics have a modest sincerity to them, and even with a potentially cynical tale like "Poor Little City Boy," there's a sympathy betrayed through the infusions of humor. While the façade of folky simplicity might fool some into thinking this is a downbeat affair, those who take the time to listen will find a great collection of thoughtful songs, harboring more than a passing fancy with chamber ensemble accompaniment. I get the distinct feeling that, given access to proper resources, Nedelle could string together some pretty mindblowing pop. It would be a fitting complement to what she's accomplished here, with so much less than a Wrecking Crew.

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