Nora O’Connor has sung for the likes of Andrew Bird, Iron & Wine, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, but she rarely approaches the microphone with her own material. Thankfully, the new My Heart (Pravda Records) is the best of her infrequent works. O’Connor’s already known for a rich and mellifluous voice, but here it’s combined with crisp arrangements passed to a roster of Chicago session musicians from her Bloodshot Records days.
O’Connor’s lyricism outpaces many of her contemporaries, particularly when she focuses on intricate objective details, akin to Ben Gibbard’s style of songwriter as scientist or detective — check out “Sore” or “Tarot Card” as examples. Ten tracks here include an instrumental, so the album feels over all too soon, but any sustenance from O’Connor will put the listener in better health.
Also New & Noteworthy
Bird Streets, Lagoon (Sparkle Plenty) – L.A. bard John Brodeur shifted from a Jason Falkner duo in the debut of Bird Streets, to a full band featuring the likes of Ed Harcourt and Michael Lockwood. The result moves the project closer to a 21st-century Badfinger — perfectly crisp power-pop with a hint of The Beatles. The only limit to this sophomore work might be Brodeur’s double shot of sincerity and regret. Then again, who can define the proper mix of compassion and callousness?
GIFT, Momentary Presence (Dedstrange) – Who remembers the softer side of 13th Floor Elevators, “She Lives in a Time of Her Own”? That’s sort of what TJ Freda cooks up with his debut GIFT project. The Brooklyn psychedelic musician turned to Baba Ram Dass’ Be Here Now to cure anxiety attacks, and realized it helped define a transcendent form of soul-purging psychedelia. One moment Freda unearths the sound of 1966, the next he channels Beach House. It’s not necessary to fully grasp Freda’s inner transformation to enjoy this romp through psychedelic styles.