Aoife O’Donovan – Fossils
Shall I compare Aoife O’Donovan’s Fossils to a summer day? I’ll stop with the cliché, but it’s hard not to have a summer day in mind when listening to the Crooked Still alum’s solo debut. O’Donovan’s sweet voice is refreshing as a breeze, and the lyrics are liberally sprinkled with summer imagery – fireflies, the beach, a back porch and more figure prominently in the album’s 10 songs.
The album’s highlight is “Red & White & Blue & Gold,” an ode to both the freedom and restlessness of summer. It’s easy to get swept along by the song’s lighthearted groove (and darn near impossible not to sway to it), but there’s plenty of substance here, too. “I’m scared of the way that my heart gets sore from wondering if you’re mine” is one of many great lyrics on this album – haven’t we all been there?
But Fossils isn’t all breezes and sunshine. Storms roll in on a summer afternoon, and there are glimpses of darkness on the album. Peppy “Fire Engine” sounds like good fun if you’re not listening closely, but “cuz if you prove false to me, bright day, bright day will turn to night” takes a sharp turn toward trouble. “Glowing Heart” is just straight-up heartbreak, beautiful and fragile, the chorus a string of plaintive variations on “Where are you now?”
Aoife (pronounced EE-fuh) O’Donovan’s voice is tender and soothing, well-suited to her mysticism-tinged lyrics and dreamy arrangements. But it can be playful, too, (“Oh my tyranny’s gonna crumble/and so sit next to me and fumble/with the buttons on my dress”) or pack a punch. Producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Tift Merritt, Laura Veirs, Neko Case) lets her voice take the lead, taking strength from a wide range of instruments (including banjo, accordion, mellotron, piano, trumpet and … papoose) that never overpower. O’Donovan plays with rhythm on several songs, challenging the listener without ever breaking out of the album’s beautiful feel.
There are a lot of great new releases right now, but few are more lovely and more temperate.
NOTE: “Beekeeper,” another album highlight, and one that shows O’Donovan’s sassy side, is currently a free download on Amazon. Go get it!