While I normally love bagpipes, snappy bass lines, and rhythmic drones, I must confess I was not immediately taken with this album. On my initial listen I found the vocals too redolent of the Mammas and the Papas or the 5th Dimension. And there was flute. It was too upbeat as well.
I have ingrained and strong opinions, that in this case got in my way.
And then I really listened. Once I got over myself and my curmudgeonly biases, I found a jazz-inflected musical gem full of sparkle and some truly fine music. The stand-up bass and fiddle with the sax really do it for me. I felt really good listening to this.
I fell for all of the instrumental parts, and the lyrics are whip smart, witty and surprising. The songs reflect on stereotypes, daily life, bittersweet love and it's clearly and strongly voiced from a female perspective. It has some really funny bits. which I appreciate. We all need a bit more of that.
Now I love it, or at least most of it. “Barking up the Wrong Tree,” “That Kind of Day” (a wry They Might Be Giants-esque narrative complaint), “Lovey-Doveyin’“ and “You Saw Yourself Out” stand out. I may never like “Heartless”- it’s too San Francisco in the 1960s for me- but I recognize that others will adore it. The hypnotic drone, the saxophone solo and close harmonies will delight many, I am sure. The rhythm is marvelous.
Tone of Voice Orchestra is a 10 piece group out of Copenhagen, and includes a cittern, bagpipes, drums, double bass, flutes sax, hurdy-gurdy and fiddle and four singers. The members are all award winning and hyper-accomplished artists, coming together for this one album as a special project. I would be really excited to see them play live. The impact of this kind of ensemble in concert must pack a real aural wallop.
So what is the upshot here? It’s creative and sonically complex. It draws from many traditions and influences including old time, ragas, jazz and pop and is just the thing for spring-time listening. It is truly fresh, energizing and has lush textures and beats. The press release calls it “genre defiant," a term which I am tickled by; it's my new favorite genre. The whole thing is good for humming along with, with a few genuine earworm moments thrown. It’s pop music for grownups, adult but playful. I’ll take some of that.
Find out more about the ensemble.