Sunday, June 27, 2010

Laurie Anderson -- Homeland

Laurie AndersonHomeland (Nonesuch): Anderson's first studio album in eight years (her ninth overall) is a welcome return. The Glen Ellyn native has not changed her basic approach too much. She talk/sings through most of her material (sometimes accompanied by an electronic voice) with spare accompaniment. She allows for a lot of sonic space on her songs, and then finds interesting ways to fill it in, whether it's a new technique she uses for amplifying her violin to let you hear the tones she hears, bringing in some Tuvan throat singers, or simply letting keyboards provide warm, floating textures. The long layoff has left Anderson with a lot to say, from personal ruminations to striking political observations. This is very atmospheric music that is often beautiful. There is one of change of pace track, and it's a true highlight. "Only an Expert" is a catchy techno song, not quite beat heavy enough for dancing, with brilliantly cutting lyrics and keyboard assistance from Four Tet's Kieran Hebdan and Laurie's husband, Lou Reed, on guitar. (Lou also co-produces) Most of the songs are very quiet. “Dark Time in the Revolution” starts off very slowly, but builds into an ominous, percussive number. Fans of Laurie’s gigantic British hit “O Superman” might find “My Right Eye” to their liking. “Thinking of You” is a beautiful composition, with repetitive violin lines that are reminiscent of minimalist Phillip Glass. The centerpiece of the album is the long narrative "Another Day In America", which ties together the personal with social commentary, with plenty of irony and wit. A lot of great avant-garde musicians appear on this album, including saxophonist John Zorn on a couple of songs. The album is well sequenced and builds power with each listen. It stands up with the best of Anderson's work.

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