The Places Call it Sleep

[Hush; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie rock
Others: The Thermals, 31Knots, Norfolk & Western, Swords Project

The Places are the project of one Amy Annelle, described as a "sometimes-Portlander" by her record label, northwest indie Hush Records. Annelle's last record with her band The Places was 2001's The Autopilot Knows You Best (Absolutely Kosher), which ended up on several top-ten lists, including that of the Village Voice, along with garnering a hefty 8.7 from Pitchfork Media. The most remarkable thing about Annelle's music is her full, lovely singing voice, drawing her deserved comparisons to the other indie chanteuse big-hitters: Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Edith Frost. Unlike her fellow songmistresses, however, Annelle forgoes the simple, spare arrangements of Frost's albums and Marshall's more recent work. Annelle instead takes the sentiments of Rilo Kiley and saps the pop away, replacing the simpler arrangements with dense washes of sound. Annelle's band, which includes members of the Decemberists, Thermals, and Death Cab for Cutie, provide a texturally rich background for her voice, though this chief instrument is cranked up front and center at all times. There are no voice-and-guitar or voice-and-piano soliloquies here; "Clean Starts" features a trumpet to great effect, while "Ruined New Life" follows with some bells or vibraphone. The chief weakness of Call it Sleep is its lack of memorable tunes. For all the pastoral atmospherics and winsome instrumentation, I can't remember how a single song goes. And I just finished the last one. On headphones, no less! Even so, fans of that sopranic melancholy evoked by the other artists dropped here will be glad for this.

1. Dead Reckoning
2. Birds Are Waking
3. What I Wouldn't Do for You
4. Travel Light
5. Clean Starts
6. Ruined New Life
7. Program Ten
8. 'Til the Death