(Self-released, CD, digital download)
One of life’s small but distinct pleasures is loading a new CD into an iTunes browser and having the CDDB/Gracenote album search come up empty. This is a nuisance for some, maybe, since it requires entering track info — gasp! — by hand. But it also means that in the entirety of known popular music, you possess something most of the rest of the world doesn’t.
Where the Current Goes, the second album from Burlington songwriter Lady Lioness (aka Erin Cavellier) bears just that kind of personalized charm. Packaged in brown paper, clumsily stitched together with green thread, and featuring crude, handpainted cover art, the album’s “arts and crafts” exterior is a telling reflection of the idiosyncratic bedroom pop found within.
“Winter Has a Way of Sneaking Up on You” opens the record with three minutes of instrumental atmospherics. Steely synth lines swirl amid light flurries of acoustic guitar and icy droplets of xylophone. You can almost feel the fading orange light of a late fall afternoon.
“Psalm and Dance” features benedictory church-organ swells laid over a disco-y electro beat. A contrapuntal chorus of “oohs” frames Cavellier’s reverb-soaked, minimalist lead vocals. It’s like an indie-folk canticle.
Throughout much of the album, Cavellier cloaks her voice behind electronic contrivances. While such arrangements are often engaging, straining to discern her lyrics is sometimes a frustration. But in a few instances, as on “Haircut,” the listener gets a clearer picture of Lady Lioness’ vocal prowess. “My hair was shorter then / My arms were always reaching,” she sings in a timbre vaguely reminiscent of another local songstress, Anaïs Mitchell — though their styles are generally dissimilar. Whether by design or simple insecurity, her small voice implies a timid uncertainty.
But, also like Mitchell, it is precisely that vulnerability that makes Lady Lioness’ music so compelling, as on the breezy uke- and xylophone-driven “Miles and Miles.” Here, Cavellier’s vocals are set so far back in the mix, they almost evaporate into the ether. The effect is chilling.
Where the Current Goes is a rare delight. Whether walled off in headphones or blasted through large stereo speakers, the album retains a singular closeness, an intimate satisfaction — as if Lady Lioness is singing only for you.
Lady Lioness will be at Radio Bean this Saturday, March 13, as part of the “Ladies of Burlington” showcase. Where the Current Goes is available for free download at bandcamp.com.