Album Reviews

Mariee Sioux – Gift for the End

on April 24, 2012, 7:58am
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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”

3 comments

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Ratatoskyr
August 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I’m a Mariee Sioux fan, too, and I do like this album for the songs, but I find the arrangements to be very unimaginative, and to the point that they even subvert the songs they are supposed to enhance. That’s the producer’s failure. Compare “Icarus Eye” on this record, for instance, with the live duet version on Toad Sessions , which is so strong. I’m not saying the unplugged approach is always best, instrumentation can add very interesting and even crucial counterpoint to voice and guitar when done well. That’s something that Joe Boyd excelled at, and why Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan, who were also originally just a voice and a guitar, sound so timeless today. Unfair to compare with Boyd, perhaps, but the arrangements on this record seem very pedestrian by comparison (I mean, geez, listen to the organ on “Icarus Eye,” what’s the point? It’s so distracting). “Sleepily middle-of-the-road” describes it well. In the end the production on “Gift for the End” weakens Mariee’s songs and voice, resulting in an inferior record, and I’m bummed. Mariee, next time find someone who will take your songs and elevate them, not drag them down.

Eericsshaw
May 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Love mariee, hate your website 

RobertM13
April 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm

What are you looking for, a rock record or some kind of hipster spectacle band that sounds like MGMT? I love mariee’s music. Her new record surprised me a lot after expecting more of the old native stuff. True, it is as psychedelic as linda perhacs but contains some of the most beautiful modern songwriting i have heard in almost a decade.. Everything you said about it is exactly what i like about it. When I left new york and started spending a bit more time in nature, I personally started to like music that doesnt have to be full of hype (and thought of as hip), but just what sounds and feels good. The more relaxing the better. And If Mariee reads this, great work on this one, and I love the trance-inspiring circular rhythm of your songs and im glad youre not trying too hard to impress, obviously still following your heart in your writing and melody! <3

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