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[Off The Record]
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Tara Jane O’Neil

Tara Jane O’Neil’s second solo effort comprises 11 touching songs that elude — deliberately, it seems — full realization. Her self-taught mixing technique layers guitars and bass with the occasional unexpected texture of a slow, whining accordion or a toy piano. Her vocals surface intermittently in the mix, lyrics blurred by lagging enunciation. She enlists the help of former collaborators and current friends to add haunting strings, or drums that sound distant, almost vacant.

There’s a liquid feel of movement throughout the album that mirrors her nomadic living over the past year. O’Neil wrote the songs on the road, and in locations ranging from a cabin in the woods to a studio apartment in New York City, but she recorded them all in an empty ballroom in Louisville. Each track uses the echoey space to create its own ambiance: the sweaty-pipe basement feel of "A Noise in the Head"; the waltzing "This Morning"; the sunny, 1970s summer-song edge of "Sweet Bargaining." But nothing stays nailed down too long. O’Neil keeps you guessing, thinking, feeling. The dreamlike arrangements compel you to listen closely if you want to solve the sonic riddles she weaves. And just when you’re homing in on the answer, they leave you grasping at a shirttail.


Issue Date: December 13 - 20, 2001

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