Friday, November 20, 2009

Elin Palmer – Postcard

Elin Palmer – Postcard
Category: Music In My Ears — dryvetyme @ 07:00
Elin Palmer
Self-Released; 2009

I have more than a few friends who would be turned off at the following comparison, mostly because their proclivities regarding folk and indie music are mostly of the highly traditional and/or purist strains. But when I heard the songs of Postcard by Elin Palmer for the first time, I immediately conjured up images of Joanna Newsom and Owen Pallett making a baby together and raising their child on a healthy diet of classical music and left-of-center folk singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s. If that fabrication makes no sense to you, dear reader, let me put things another way – this native Swede has concocted a delectable indie-folk record that features her elegant soprano and her prodigious skill on the violin and nickelharpa (an ancient, traditional Swedish instrument) alongside strings, piano, accordion, and an excellent percussionist.

What makes this woman’s commendable combination of folk and world instrumentation so noteworthy is that she manages to accomplish this while never bowing to hipster caprice. Palmer’s music is quirky without being weird or obtuse (even as she occasionally sings in her native tongue), and it’s pleasingly quaint without being an odd or sugary anachronistic throwback. Part of me feels that it’s her lovely vocals thankfully refusing those easy stylistic crutches – she has a strong voice with just the right amount of lilt, one that never reaches for histrionic heights and only breaks out its ethereal qualities when absolutely necessary.

Admittedly, given this blonde chanteuse’s pedigree and track record as a multi-instrumentalist recording for the Lee Lewis Harlots, 16 Horsepower and M. Ward, there are plenty of DeVotchKa and Sufjan Stevens reference points with this eight-song record. But on the whole, the only weak songs in my estimation are “Duvardar” and “No Use,” which are each hampered by a rather staid, blasé gypsy-ish waltz tempo, despite trying to charm your socks off with melodies that come straight out of a blissful fairy tale.

Palmer, to my delight, never seeks to evoke anything remotely resembling bluegrass, freak-folk, alt-country, or something else chic and trendy. Moreover, there is nothing bulbous, bloated, or overtly anthemic present with this music, as instead we’re graced with a display of remarkable restraint and compositional acumen. Led by the title track, “Stora Stoular,” and “Balloons,” Postcard is a simple, pretty folk-pop record created by an extremely talented musician and her classically trained friends that’s so very lovely to my ears.

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