ike a less jazz-inflected Susannah and the Magical Band, Ellekari Larson and The Tiny mine an interesting place in the musical landscape. Call it suicidal pop minimalism. Vocalist Larson isn’t exactly on the verge of killing herself, though. It’s more that each song is so laden with minor-key melodies and lonely cellos that it’s hard to believe that’s she singing about anything other than her inexorable sadness or the winter of her particular discontent.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, Larson’s voice tends to recall a less-talented Bjork or even a slightly less annoying Joanna Newsom. Her voice never truly goes outside of its seemingly limited range, which for her, might be a good thing. When taken in concert with the rest of the album, however, it becomes clear it isn’t. Because The Tiny rely on the same instruments and style of playing it becomes hard, by the end, to tell many of the songs apart. One nearly wishes for a voice crack to come along and help separate it from the rest of the pack. No such luck. Larson is, for better or worse, completely controlled from the get-go.
In most cases, it’s for the worse. By remaining as emotionless as she is, Larson seems to ignore the thing that makes acts like Newsom and Bjork so strong—their ability to invoke a variety of feelings via their myriad tones and expressions. Larson, on the other hand, stays cool and impassive, rarely letting anyone into understand the pains that she is going through by having “No Money” or the cracked isolation that pervades “Closer.” “Across The Bridge” does the best job in breaking up the album vocally by providing a delicate duet of low and high, wavering and static.
Because of this, the instrumentalists of the group are faced with an even greater challenge—to flesh out in song exactly what Larson is trying to express in words. It’s only a minor number of tracks, most notably “Closer” and “Lake” that the group seems up to the task. There the group provides counterpoint, instead of musical confirmation to the emotions that Larson sings. Much of the rest of the album is instead spent on seeing how little can be played on each track while still having it contain a melody, harmony, and rhythm.
Which wouldn’t be so horrible if it was, say, haunting. But the repetition of each track rarely increases the tension, but rather points to the fact that there’s not much else there to say.
Reviewed by: Sarah Kahrl
Reviewed on: 2005-03-03