Tara Jane O’Neil In Circles

[Quarterstick; 2006]

Styles: indie rock, indie folk
Others: Cat Power, Edith Frost, Linda Perhacs

Still quite young, Tara Jane O'Neil has a discography that oozes indie cred in all the right ways. As a former member of Rodan, she cut her teeth in one of the seminal outfits that, along with Slint, effectively defined post-rock. Later, in Retsin and The Sonora Pine, she helped expand the female presence in the indie rock boys club, something she's continued to do over the course of several well-received solo albums that have found her maneuvering through more folky terrain. In Circles continues this trajectory, at the same time proving that a great artist only improves with time.

In Circles may best be described as expertly restrained. While O'Neil and her various collaborators have access to many instruments and recording techniques, the aesthetic here is 'less is more,' and when you're dealing with well-written songs and a lovely voice, that is an appropriate tact. O'Neil has the ability to sound vulnerable but never weak, sweet but never syrupy. There seems to be more of a country balladeer persona emerging, especially evident on "The Louder" and "Blue Light Room," but I hesitate to situate her as alt-country. While fans of Neko Case and Sally Timms would likely find this a welcome diversion, the restraint is key, and the production never outshines the songs. In her ever-expanding résumé, this entry is bound to win her some new fans and allies.

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