It’s a fitting pair for Brauns’s response to Ryan Adams’s “Sylvia Plath,” from Gold, for which she only uses a finger-picked acoustic guitar. I often get frustrated with singer/songwriters because they only give me a voice and a guitar, and so often that’s not halfway enough, but Brauns doesn’t need anything else, that’s clear. Her “Sylvia Plath” is a gleaming diamond of a song. Adams is desperate for a gal who’d “slip me a pill/Then she’d get pretty loaded on gin”; “I’ll take you to France,” Brauns purrs, “We’ll get fucked up on gin/And we’ll dance, and we’ll dance.”
How you’d turn down that promise, I’m not sure.
When Brauns features a full band, the results are nearly as good, but for a couple of cello- and violin-heavy tracks late in the album that feel like filler. Her disc-opener, “Outside,” brings off a soubrette quaver wonderfully, breathtakingly melancholy. At on point, she’s “waiting for the power lines to fall,” and with that last syllable she perfectly apes the British accent Peter Gabriel retains on his So record, along with the doubled and affected vocals. For the dark shuffle that is the abortion narrative of “Roisin Dubh,” the many-layered vocals on the eponymous chorus are evil sirens.
Brauns, like Katrina Abramo earlier this year, leads with her vocals and follows with superior songwriting and guest performances. Where Abramo leans toward the indie rock, however, Brauns is more earthy, imbued with the greenery of Celtic influences and the warmth of acoustic instruments.
Do you know the mysticism of Baron Munchausen? Brauns channels it, particularly in the orchestral jazz of “Cinderella.” “Find your lipstick, but hide knives inside your boots,” she advises. “Tell all the boys you love to leave them/And they’ll never win you back.”
Oh, how they’ll try.
Cosed for the Season | Released by Laurel Brauns | at Blue, in Portland | with Audrey Ryan | April 14
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Web
Laurel Brauns: www.laurelbrauns.com