Erin McKeown: “Hundreds of Lions”
Erin McKeown used to be the most irritatingly perky person in indie pop music. Classically trained and holding a degree in ethnomusicology, the bright-haired and wide-eyed singer/songwriter combined pan-cultural and multi-generational musical elements with an anthropologist’s geeky love of history, even as she wrote sunshiny melodies and sang her lyrics as though there were a cheerful exclamation point at the end of each line. Thing was, as attention-seeking as that all sounds on paper, it was clear that McKeown’s on-record persona was no act; her giddy naiveté was totally sincere, which made her impossible to dislike even if the music sometimes wore out its welcome.
She’s grown up a bit, thank God, and cultivated a sound that plays to her strengths and dials down the hopped-up peppiness without placing any restrictions on her free spirit: With each album she’s made (save, perhaps, for her standards album, Sing You Sinners), she’s further developed her sense of texture and pacing, perfected her innate sense of drama and fleshes out her music with a more diverse palette of sounds, combined in increasingly seamless and sophisticated ways. 2005’s We Will Become Like Birds remains her finest work, a remarkably sophisticated album of breezy pop-folk tunes wrapped up in hazy electronics and spiked with guitar rock.
Read the rest at Stereo Subversion.