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Strangefruit | Between the Earth and The Sea

album review by John Powell

Strangefruit | Between the Earth and The Sea

Something was lost in the early 2000s when women like Alanis Morissette, Paula Cole, and Tori Amos were putting out more rockin’ folk music that was both pop-melodic and lyrically stimulating. Strangefruit may be less MTV than any of these predecessors were, but they’re no less capable of producing such calculated music.

For this EP, Jenny Maxwell and Jamie and Peter Perrett, along with a few other musicians to round out the sound, dip into the serene, beautiful scope of ballad-heavy songs that match weirdness with prettiness.

“Tell Me” could easily be a number one hit. It streams in on delicate piano (dreaming up the Tori Amos reference) and Jenny singing quietly. My goodness, what a voice! It’s not ferocious, tense, or affected. Instead, it’s an emotive, clear sugar. The instrumentation, in fact, is quite good, but it’s nothing another likeminded band couldn’t pull off. Leave it to Jenny to take the piano-driven, sparse electric music and to the next level. “Tell me all the time,” she sings with growing concern, “that your love’s as strong as mine.”

Strangefruit is out to be catchy and off-putting. These songs sound familiar, but also just damn good. “Falling” lingers on a carnival-type, two-chord organ riff. “Pull me back to a place I’ve left behind,” Jenny sings as electric guitar scuffles the band into the chorus. Male backing vocals add to the sound as Jenny cries, “Wake up just to find/ we’re falling back into the night.” Eerie.

“Ghosts” sounds like its name. The guitar ripples and the bass is more like a heartbeat, with Jenny fading into shadows. “Slowly Drift Away” is gorgeously mellow. It’s like the song is emerging from a fog rolling across London bridges. “I’ll never love again,” Jenny offers. “Won’t you hold me?/ I cannot be on my own.”

On the finale, “Sea of Fog”, Strangefruit returns to their energetic rock roots. The bass almost gets playful. Cowboy-style guitar pulls one way and Jenny pulls the other, busting out a violin part that matches the electric guitar’s intensity.

As an EP, Between The Earth and The Sea is stimulating. You wonder, however, how Strangefruit might do with a longer career. Will this sound and songwriting sustain, or, like many of similar genre, will they start to plagiarize themselves?

I hope not. Strangefruit’s album is very good, very sensual and lustful; very macabre. I hope they aren’t afraid to push themselves. They deserve to make a name for themselves.

Bottom line: It’s hard to distill what makes this EP good, but the dark rock instrumentation and a female vocalist that shows no fear is a good place to start.


 

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