California psych-folk artist Mariee Sioux has kept busy since her 2007 debut album, Faces in the Rocks, joining the list of artists who have put out collaborative EPs with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and making appearances on tributes to Graham Nash and The Cure. In between those various one-off projects, Sioux’s found time to write and record a second full-length, titled Gift for the End.
Sioux’s drawn quick comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but she’s a closer descendant of the more acid-washed pool of ’70s singer/songwriters inhabited by Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Tim Hardin. Her surreal lyrical approach paints strange and memorable images; it’s her words that’ll pull you in and hold your attention, more so than the music itself. A typical example comes from the album’s best song, “Homeopathic”: “You hold a lake in each hand/One’s for skating on, one for drowning in.” Her voice is airy, soft; her gently fingerpicked guitar rolls and repeats itself meditatively. Sioux sings some pretty harmonies at several points, particularly on “White Fanged Foreverness” and “Tule”.
Unfortunately, the songs are so similar from track to track, moving along at such a relaxed pace, blending in to each other, and doing little to stand apart. Songs stretch out over five minutes on average. It’s drowsy music, something you’d have to be in a fairly specific mood to feel an urge to throw on. Soothing, dreamy, haunting, atmospheric, ethereal—all are words that could be used to describe her music—but energizing it’s certainly not.
Sioux’s part of a small subgenre of music that also includes Joanna Newsom, Scout Niblett, and, to some degree, even Julia Holter, all of whom are tough to compete with. With so much good (and weird) folk music out there, it’s difficult to strongly recommend something so sleepily middle-of-the-road.
Essential Tracks: “Homeopathic”