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Madeline – The Slow Bang

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The Slow Bang Cover There are albums that are going to change your life and there are albums that are just pleasant to listen to. This isn’t one of the former, but–as I discovered this afternoon–it is definitely one of the latter. While I’m not sure where I stumbled across it, I put it on as I was packing this afternoon (I’m moving out of my apartment) and it hooked me enough to want to sit down and write about it.

The record is a short (32 minutes, 9 songs), low-fi affair that I guess one could call southern folk or something like that. Madeline’s voice is airy and playful, bobbing around singsong melodies. She’s more straightforward than Chan Marshall or Scout Niblett, but those are the closest touchstones that come to mind, especially when her accent comes through or she hits a vibrato in just the right place. Her voice isn’t showy, but it’s reasonably accomplished.

The sweet earnestness of her voice works with her lyrics in a kind of cool way. On the lion’s share of the tracks, it fits to a T, as on the quiet crush of “To Hell and Back” or the gently encouraging “Fish in the Sea.” But just as often, she turns her sugary coating around on herself–“Uncle’s Sweetheart Pt. 2,” which is one of the more rootsy songs in flavor, could be described as a murder ballad, complete with lines like “I’ll shine up his gun with the corner of my wedding dress.” On the more haunting side, “1982” seems a bitter memory of someone lost–“Why break your back just to find a resting place?” The contrast is interesting and there’s enough complexity to the words to continue to stay interesting as one considers them further.

Musically, most of the album is fairly spare. “The Demise of Madame Butterfly” features vaudeville piano, which makes a milder appearance on a few other tracks. There is some light percussion (though only “Good Houses” seems to feature full drums). The star of the show is the acoustic guitar, which runs simple lines ala Iron & Wine, but as there, they’re accomplished enough and carried by the voice well enough to work.

All in all, The Slow Bang strikes that interesting balance where something is mellow and pleasant but still manages to be memorable and engaging. If you’re a fan of low-fi or neo-folk, it’s worth looking into.

You can download the first two tracks, Sleeping Dogs and To Hell and Back via Madeline’s website, www.madelinesongs.com, or you can order the record on iTunes or from Orange Twin Records.

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Written by Sarah K

June 25, 2008 at 8:04 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I really dig her website. I’m listening to Sleeping Dogs right now. I usually don’t get into female vocalists. I’m not really sure why. But I do really like the sound of her voice. I don’t know that I would by the album, but I’ll probably download a few tracks from it.

    I see what you mean about being “spare.” It seems very spacious, if that makes sense.

    Jacob Z

    June 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

  2. Spacious does make sense–there’s not a lot coming at you, so it kind of gives it room to stretch.

    I dunno, I have a love/hate thing with female voices. I think I have to be in the mood. But I have to be in the mood for most things I listen to, I guess.

    Sarah K

    June 26, 2008 at 3:35 am


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