With this, her third solo offering since she split with 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant may have made her most consistent album yet. More overtly political than any of her previous effort, her songwriting seems more focused and clever than before – and that is saying a lot, what with the high standard held by the majority of her previous output. The album opens with instant favorite “This House is on Fire,” a lovely surprise with its warm, seducing arrangement and a subtle and inviting, yet uncompromising political theme. The title song is a remarkable showcase for her vocal talents, “Saint Judas” a harsh comment on oppression and the unwillingness to stand up against any kind of injustice, while “Henry Darger” is a haunting tale of madness and fascination told over a repetitive, chanting melody. It says a lot about Merchant’s considerable talents that she manages to bind such diverse and multifaceted songs as these into a tightly knit whole. Taking the presumed lightweight format of adult oriented pop as her starting point, she has made an album of enticing musical explorations and critical social commentary. A stunning new work from an amazingly talented songwriter and performer.
Natalie Merchant: http://www.nataliemerchant.com