Rachel Taylor Brown
"Half Hours with the Lower Creatures"

(Cutthroat Pop Records 2008)Rachel Taylor Brown - Half Hours with the Lower Creatures

Those of you who have not picked up a book since your last high school English class or do not keep up on politics may want to skip Rachel Taylor Brown's new album: this is not mindless bubblegum pop by any stretch. Her light melodies and gentle experimentation which steer the ship that is "Half Hours with the Lower Creatures" are plucky and upbeat. At least until you find out that the songs are about war, theology and Alzheimer's. Real rib ticklers, right? But the way that Brown assembles her album is so that all the pieces come together: playful tunes bleed seamlessly into more solemn ones.

Dramatic, almost theatrical, piano ballads such as "Passion," (which Brown states was inspired by Mel Gibson's bloody film "The Passion of the Christ") "Another Dead Soldier in Fallujah" and the especially delicate "Arlington" are carefully constructed and evocative as Brown's subdued vocals flow over and with the music. While elsewhere, with her strikingly upbeat melodies, Brown offers a vague take on pop as pounding piano and smooth accents lead the charge for "You're Alright, Sorla One." By the time "Abraham and Isaac" rolls around, Brown is warmed up and ready to go; the song builds to a booming fullness that sounds suspiciously like a subtle warning to the song title's latter half. A dreamy and subtle sound gushes from the weightier "Vireo" and the ghostly "This is a Song" pulling things together.

Brown has lofty ambitions for "Half Hours with the Lower Creatures." Without the cheat sheet of her biography, the album undoubtedly loses some of its meaning. Without the back story these crashing melodies that wander into somberness are not nearly as evocative, sounding more like singer-songwriter with hints of indie rock pop.

B-

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