Portland, Oregon’s Rachel Taylor Brown is the illegitimate child of Peter Gabriel and Laurie Anderson. Okay, well, not really. But her music, which her promotional materials call “Pith-Rock” because it is “sharp ‘n’ pointy” or “spongy and permeable,” has a strong sense of feminine identity, mixed with off-beat and cutting reflections on religion, child abuse, and social control. One of my favorite lines is (I think) about Jesus’ death, where she says: “Drop the body, leave the ghost.” It reminds me of the Godfather: “Drop the gun, leave the cannoli.” I don’t know know if that was an intentional reference, but I dig it.
This is an album for people who like lyrics and vocals. The words are thoughtful and provoking, and Rachel’s voice is pitch perfect. It is dramatic, intense, and dark. I’m thinking maybe this review should have been posted in October—there’s no summer songs here!
The lead track (I’m not counting the intro), “Sister Jean,” however, is a bouncy pop tune that could have been from the late-Beatles era (think “Lady Madonna”). That song and “Taxidermy” are the only songs on the album that are that straightforward. Kinda like how Tori Amos used to put two radio-ready songs on each album, and then she’d fill the rest with her slower, kookier material.