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Magnolia Memoir

The Perfect Crime

(Peak/eOne; US: 28 Feb 2012; UK: Import)

The smoke of a six-shot. The orange flash of an ember burning at the tip of a cigarette. The dark amber of a glass of whiskey. All of these classic noir details are evoked by much of the music on The Perfect Crime. Either a 1950’s bar or a 1920’s cabaret seems to be the proper place for the performance of this music, which for the most part balances its contemporary sounds with its classic ones.

Magnolia Memoir create a convincing noir atmosphere. The title track, in both its standard and acoustic versions, is a killer take on the femme fatale archetype, and it’s got a great hook, to boot. Vocalist Mela Lee is a big part of the album’s success in noir. Throughout the record she’s sultry, alluring, fiery and even at times cutesy. (The cutesiness, unfortunately, contributes to some of the album’s weak tracks, such as the cheesy “222”). She may sing of herself as a “girl” on album opener “Good Girl”, but it’s quite clear that Lee is no girl but a woman, one who dominates the record with her strong presence. Adding to the strength of Lee’s performance is pianist Alexander Burke’s work on the ivories, ranging from the smoky noir the album excels at (the title track) to straight-up rock n’ roll (“Just Might Do”).

Mixed in with the noir, however, is some surprisingly radio-friendly rock. A lot of it is good. “My Doorbell” has a bouncy spunk to it, and “I Keep Falling” benefits from an excellent horn section. Other tracks aren’t as successful, such as the generic “Anymore”. In the end, these tracks, while for the most part good, create an unevenness in mood with the noir-heavy tracks that constitute the meat of the record. Still, much of these tracks are good, and in tandem with the excellent other half of the record, they make The Perfect Crime a listen to die for.


Brice Ezell is Assistant Editor at PopMatters, where he also reviews music, film, and books, which he has done since 2011. He also is the creator of PopMatters' Notes on Celluloid column, which covers the world of film music. His writing also appears in Sea of Tranquility and Glide Magazine (formerly Hidden Track). His short story, "Belle de Jour", was published in 67 Press' inaugural publication The Salmagundi: An Anthology. You can follow his attempts at wit on Twitter and Tumblr if you're so inclined. He lives in Chicago.


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