What a perfectly strange and delightful album is Britta Pejic's Backyards That Weren't There Before. That sounds pretty flouncy, sure, but those are the kinds of feelings the album inspires. There are times when it could be children's music, and kids will certainly like it, with its ineffable bounce and strange tales. But it's shimmery pop and alt-country and maniacally off-kilter, too.
Pejic's been here before. Her four-piece Bigamy Sisters were a pretty well-reviewed indie act out of Austin who last released the full-length Beyond the Ha Ha in 2000. Ten years later, though, it's hard to believe she'd care about being well-reviewed. This album is just so free and self-confident, veering off to wherever her imagination takes her.
"Heavy Heart" is loud and brassy, grounded by Shannon Allen's cello. "Summercholy" has a furious guitar strum and vocals and nothing else until a sweet mellotron seeps into the second verse. "The Manhole Yarn" speaks of the "notorious chasm of Istanbul," and, well, falling down a manhole.
There's a lot of the acoustic warmth that people respond to in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes' album, the moral authority of Aimee Mann, and plenty of good choices in instrumentation and tone (nice work from Acadia Recording here). I now know, thanks to Pejic, that "allium" describes bulbous herbs like onions and garlic.
She's the kind of post-modern songwriter who's not afraid to write a song like "Old Cold Bold," which seems to have been created to see how many words can be rhymed with "old": "You had a heart of gold, so I was told/We came from the same mold, but that got old/Your blood it turned so bold, when mine got cold."
It goes on. Happily. With a sleepy pedal steel bit from Todd Hutchisen creating a moody ballad. It's silly. It's serious. It's the kind of song created by people who have no choice but to write and record music just because they love the hell out of it. That kind of energy comes through and is hard not to like.
So, when you hear about something like Britta Pejic's "CD release party and Giant Onion Giveaway," maybe you ought to think about checking it out.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACKYARDS THAT WEREN'T THERE BEFORE | Released by Britta Pejic | with the Lomax | at the Empire, in Portland | Dec 16 | brittap.com