It’s hard to get a handle on Elk City, in part because the music lulls you, enwraps you to the point that you don’t realize you’ve listened to the damn record two or three times in a row. It’s only when a song such as “Love’s Like a Bomb,” with its twisted lyrics about eating bread on your parents’ graves rolls by again that you notice you’ve been hitting repeat a lot. This is a good thing, and it’s in large part due to the sound of Renee Lobue’s voice. She can move (in the course of a single song) from a soothing, almost “Twin Peaks techno” ambiance to a guttural Marianne Faithful groan, perfecting fitting the ragtag montage of the music. Part Velvets, part turn of the century hurdy-gurdy minstrels, Elk City confounds and delights in equal measure. A cover of “California Dreamin'” surprises you partly because it takes a few minutes to recognize the song as a cover — it fits so well with the rest of the record, you think it’s an original. In fact, that’s a good thought to sum up Elk City: classic, yet original.
Hidden Agenda Records, 905 South Lyon St., Urbana, IL 61601; http://www.parasol.com