WITH STAYING POWER Marie Moreshead.
For a girl with such a professed affinity for monogamy, Marie Moreshead is a bit of a tease. On the heels of 2007's intriguing Distraction EP, she's now released a five-song EP in Birdwatchers that's bound to leave you aching for more. With a delivery like a stone skipping across a stilled lake in the morning mist and a wide-eyed outlook on the world that manages to be cynical, escapist, and endearingly naïve all at once, Moreshead is a sparkling bauble of talent that's hard not to keep peeking at.
Fittingly, Jonathan Wyman has crafted a backing group of studio musicians to serve as a tasteful platinum setting for said jewel. Moreshead is always front and center, sometimes even hot in the mic when she emotes, but the pop-folk backing, reminiscent of the Pete Kilpatrick records, is consistently interesting and keeps the record from just being a pedestal.
To open the disc with "As the Romans Do," full of Pat Lynch's banjo and comforting cymbal wash from drummer Dan Crean, is a great choice. Not only does Moreshead introduce herself with self-awareness -- "I'm a strange and introverted little lady/You might not believe me because my mouth just won't sit still" -- but she dispels any notion you might have had that she's some kind of namby-pamby singer/songwriter (not that there's anything wrong with that). She's crisp and structured, all hard syllables and glottal stops.
Then, mid-album, when everything is stripped away and she actually is a namby-pamby singer/songwriter, damn if it isn't spectacular. Her ice-pick of a falsetto, especially, is a thrill, and "Permanent Kind" is so finely crafted I'm more than willing to forgive a little corniness here and there: "I hold my head up high because I know you're my guy."
By the time Kilpatrick actually shows up, for the duet "Hello There," the boy-girl hook has been thoroughly set and Karl Anderson's keyboards are just as charming as Pete and the lyrics: "well, hello there, I'd really like for you to love me/I'd really like for you to open up your heart and let me in."
Just 21 (you know you're young when you do a duet with Kilpatrick and he's the grizzled veteran) Moreshead's voice could peg her even younger, so unadorned by any kind of rasp or rough edge, and her sentiments can be equally pure of heart. In the finishing "Birdwatchers," opening with just her acoustic guitar and Hache's bass and then building in a snare and muted piano, she sings about those things that some of us have become so cynical as to not find remarkable anymore: "Nobody cares for the truth anymore/They'd rather hear lies/They'd rather be bored to death/Than be angry or feel anything."
Well, yeah. But sometimes a reminder full of delicious nostalgia can be comforting, even if it's all too short.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRDWATCHERS | Released by Marie Moreshead | at Common Ground Country Fair, in Unity | Sept 27 | at Bull Moose Music, in Portland | Oct 3 |www.mariemoreshead.com