Wednesday, April 12, 2006

***Frances England***

Sometimes spaces between notes are as powerful as the music itself. Frances England has created a powerfully simple, simply powerful collection of songs for her debut album, Fascinating Creatures. Other than Ms. England’s voice, all you’ll hear are strummed guitars, maracas, the occasional clave, and a rare visit from a drum set. Ghostly, distant notes float across many of the songs, along with faint, whispery backing vocals. If Daniel Lanois produced Sam Phillips, the result might sound a little like Fascinating Creatures, but to be honest this CD is so wonderfully unique, it’s hard to properly describe.

Suburban childhood activities abound: planting a little garden; painting; riding a tricycle; wondering where trains, planes and boats go when they leave our sight; reading favorite books; eating pancakes.

The highlight is the title track, a song that should be on everyone’s best-of-2006 list. Dreamy, unadorned, cosmic…one can’t say enough about this song. The inadvertently audible hum of a guitar amp and the imperfect tempo make the tune even more beautiful. The buzzy chorus of “Busy As a Bee” will make a great Toddler Time sing along, and on “Charlie Parker” you get a who’s who of bebop, plus the scat chorus is impossible not to sing along with.

At about 29 minutes, Fascinating Creatures is a short but quietly powerful little CD. If you’re alone, listen to the album on your headphones while you lie on your back in the middle of a grassy field. If you’re hanging out with your kid, play this record while you color together or plant seedlings in an old egg carton. This is a truly indie-rock kids’ album, and a fantastic one at that. Oh, and be sure to check out Ms. England’s great cover artwork!