Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Here She Comes; It's Killing Time" (From the Archives)

You remember that time when I was talking about how Franz Ferdinand sounded to me like the soundtrack to 1960s Britain? Turns out that Karen Elson is their long-lost counterpart or something, because her first album, The Ghost Who Walks, gives me that same feeling, but in a different way.

Now, as it happens, Karen Elson is more well-known for one of two things: either her (now-dissolved) marriage to Jack White of the White Stripes or her modeling career. In fact, she is one of my favorite models ever, thanks to her always perfect facial expressions and the way she carries herself (and, as a side note, she replaced Angelina Jolie as the face of St. John a few years ago and did very well, in my opinion). And while I think that modeling is her true calling, she's done a bang-up job of putting an album together, as well.

Coming in at around 42 1/2 minutes, it's not a particularly long album (the longest song runs 4:21, but most range between 3:00 and 3:50). But in twelve tracks, Elson covers a good deal of ground. The title track has a distinct 60s-era garage sound, possibly influenced by Jack White, although Elson strikes me as the kind of person who came to this sound on her own, and that's why she and White are such a good match. Something interesting to note about "The Ghost Who Walks" is that it works just as well acoustically as it does with a full band, and in fact, the first time I ever heard it was the acoustic way. See here for the acoustic and here for the full band. Note, though, that these videos were recorded live, so even the full-band version sound as little different than the album cut. The upshot of this is that you realize that she's not just some overproduced rock star's wife--she actually knows what she's doing.

In contrast to the garage sound are the more country-influenced tracks, "Lunasa," "Cruel Summer," "The Last Laugh," and "Mouths to Feed" (and when I say country, I mean the more classic country sound, like the kind of songs you'd hear on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack). Other sounds also abound. "100 Years from Now" is a strange carnival-type song and has a Mary Poppins kind of vibe to it. There's a certain kind of urgency to "Garden," and it calls to mind the very best aspects of 1990s alternative music. "The Thief at My Door" sounds almost like Sheryl Crow's "Weather Channel."

But for me, the tracks that stand out the most are "Stolen Roses," "The Truth Is in the Dirt," and "Pretty Babies." "Stolen Roses" sounds a bit like the flip side of Madonna's "La Isla Bonita 2008" with its Roma-influenced tones. But at the same time, it takes the country influence, and I can almost hear Hank Williams singing this song. "The Truth Is in the Dirt," on the other hand, pulls more of the garage rock sound in, fusing it with a blues-type structure, evident in the repetition of certain lines. And in a way, the chorus is almost a battle cry: "Here she comes; it's killing time. / Flames are burning behind her eyes."

"Pretty Babies," my very favorite song on the album, calls to mind The Hives' cover of "Find Yourself Another Girl" (from their album Veni Vidi Vicious) plus Scott Weiland's "Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down" and "Divider," with part of "Barbarella" (from his first solo album, 12 Bar Blues) thrown in for good measure. Again, a certain Sheryl Crow sound is evident, as well as a touch of Fiona Apple. The best thing is that everyone can relate to the lyrics. For example, "Gambled every bit of sense I had, / And now I've lost it all to you" and "I watch the faces as they pass me by; / I'm hoping that I'll see you." Basically, it's one of the most perfect break-up songs ever.

I hope you'll check Elson's work out; she's really very good, and I think we can expect more good music from her in the future.

Buy the whole album through Best Buy for $11.99.

Images via Elson's website.


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