A Loud Call is a nicely ironic album title for Holly Throsby, creator of some of the quietest, gentlest, least assertive music of recent years. The Sydney singer-songwriter’s two previous albums, 2004′s On Night and 2006′s Under The Town were both spare, low-key, unassuming affairs, steeped in rural imagery and sensitive observations and crowned by Throsby’s distinctive warm and sleepy vocals. The title of A Loud Call does not, as it turns out, presage any major developments in Throsby’s signature style. The atmosphere remains mostly hushed and intimate, the instrumentation acoustic, with Throsby’s sensuous voice (sounding better than ever) right up front. Nonetheless, Throsby expands her palette subtly on this, her most collaborative record.
Recorded in Nashville with engineer and producer Mark Nevers, the album features members of Lambchop and Silver Jews, plus a duet with Will Oldham, and boasts a somewhat fuller, more textured sound. (String and horn arrangements were recorded in Australia by her regular collaborator Tony Dupe.) The result is Throsby’s most confident album yet, an assured and engaging set of songs on which quality control is sustained throughout. Among the gems are the enticing opener ‘Warm Jets’, the infectious single ‘A Heart Divided’, the evocative ‘On The Wharf’, Oldham’s effective cameo on ‘Would You?’ and the delicious ‘The Time It Takes’, with its burbling brass and honky-tonk piano (plus bicycle wheel and playing card).
Eschewing some of the twee-er tendencies of her first two albums, Throsby is maturing into a songwriter of considerable skill. Whenever you think one of her songs is going to turn slushy or banal – and the opening verses of ‘Now I Love Someone’ come pretty close – it’s rescued by an odd image or a surprising detail. As usual, there’s darkness within the delicacy of her compositions. “How’re we gonna meet our ends?” wonders the narrator of ‘And Then We’re Gone’, while the closing ode to transience ‘To Begin With’ finds that “we’re only a shell in the end / and only an egg to begin with.” But there’s also warmth and hope in her work, a generous-spirited openness. The mix of melancholy and optimism that characterises her music is beguiling and, like its predecessors, A Loud Call is a charmer.
UK release date: 01/06/09; www.myspace.com/hollythrosby
‘Would You?’ [feat. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy]
A Loud Call EPK
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