Well here’s an anachronism. April Smith And The Great Picture Show is hard to describe, but not because their sound is esoteric or unfamiliar. On the contrary, it’s quite familiar, but from another era, except maybe from an era that never existed…a combination of eras past. Smith’s voice is bold and strong, something that wouldn’t be all that common until Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, though of course notable exceptions like Bessie Smith were killing it decades earlier. And in a lot of ways, this does hearken back to the 20’s and 30’s. The name of the band and the picture of the Titanic on the cover don’t hurt, nor does the instrumentation (including upright bass, ukulele, horns, and strings, along with the Mellotron and Rhodes that would come later but evoke so much retro today it’s hard to place them in their correct time), but the real placement in time comes from Smith’s presentation. If I may, it’s a bit of a je ne sais quoi, but she’s got a real style of showmanship and presentation that’s very old-timey and glamorous in a way that predates mass media.
The lyrics are clever and, again, if I may, sassy. From “Drop Dead Gorgeous”: “Cuz if you’re just drop dead gorgeous/Then you should just drop dead.” From “Stop Wondering”: “If you ever wonder/If I’m dreaming of you/Then you can stop.” But she also spends some time reaching back to an older time on songs like the war-era-esque “Colors” (“I’ll wear your colors my dear/’Till you’re standing right here”), “Dixie Boy,” and “Wow And Flutter.”
For most of its run, this one-of-a-kind album kind of flirts with being too precious, but Smith owns these songs and delivers them in such a confident manner, that it just works, maybe even better than it should. How wonderful to hear an artist go out on a limb with a unique voice and have it succeed so brilliantly. Neo-folk, my ass; unless April Smith is leading the vanguard, you’re doing it wrong.
Mix: “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” “Colors,” “Stop Wondering”
– “Movie Loves A Screen,” “Terrible Things,” “Can’t Say No,” “Dixie Boy,” “Wow And Flutter”
– “The One That Got Away,” “Beloved”
– “What’ll I Do”
Filed Between: Smile Empty Soul (“Bottom Of A Bottle” b/w “Every Sunday” promotional CD) and Elliott Smith (Either/Or)
Song Notes: After the jump
- Movie Loves A Screen –
- Terrible Things –
- Drop Dead Gorgeous – Almost too cute for its own good, but the rock solid performance, the lyrics, the bold vocals, and the awesome bridge save the day. Hmm, maybe it’s just plain awesome.
- Can’t Say No – old-timey feel. like a betty boop kinda thing. pouty. Can see some finger-wagging going on. Chorus makes it full.
- What’ll I Do – ballad. Have this as open or full but it’s boring me now. Making it broken.
- Colors –
- Dixie Boy –
- The One That Got Away – almost full.
- Beloved – reminds me of Adele at the beginning. Transforms into a big sweeping ballad. almost full.
- Wow And Flutter –
- Stop Wondering – full due to its craftsmanship more than it grabbing me.