Here’s a disc that almost got lost in the swirl of holiday happenings, but a persistent publicist did her job and turned me onto the vaguely Celtic pot pie of soothing female vocals and serene musicianship. There’s just enough Celt in it to give it savor without going down the hobbit hole of alcoholic excesses leading to hungover angry windmill tilting. Vocalist Lauren Kinsella offers us a sweet, precise story of love and life that is just a tinge exotic, but never forced. “The Stars Turned Black” is a recurring chorus of joy on track one. “Track two, “Good Beginnings,” continues the story-song thread with a heartbreaking look at a cab driving woman looking to find love or at least temporary lust. Again, we have a low keyed backing soundbed, and up front a humane and detailed story that avoids the bridge and chorus structure of American pop.
Kinsella’s simple vocal has a touch of digital doubling, but it’s so subtle you need multiple spins to confirm that is really the effect you hear. The heights and depth of artiness appear in “Submarine,” with lyrics like “I lay shipwrecked in your arms” and “The rain fell in ribbons” and “I wash away the color.” Somehow, these lines bring a tear to my steely eyes. The entire record feels like a love letter, perhaps not aimed at you exactly, but at someone near you. With material like this I feel some hope for the new year. Step up and wipe away a tear.