On her debut, Crystal Bright takes music history and her own impressive technique on various of instruments and creates a dream-like (sometimes nightmarish) world that conjures and contorts the past more than it continues it. It’s got an old-time swing, elements of different strains of European folk, but it also has its own rollicking spectacle, and in the middle of it is the narcotic, dramatic air of Bright’s vocals. At here best—over the heartbreaking piano of “Killing Table” or the tumbling strings of “Adungu”—Bright renders real emotion, equal parts isolation, disappointment, and budding hope, out of sounds that seem mystical, even otherworldly. She often lilts through these swaying songs, but she can bite, as when she bitterly snaps “Shame on you for being so kind to everyone, especially your mother” on the opening track. These moments prove highlights on Muses & Bones, though the entire record is an impressive display of musical acumen, striking melodies, and impressive performance. Performance is the word, because Bright is a performer in the truest sense of the word. These songs have a theatricality to them that makes them exciting, but can also make them emotionally distant. The best parts cut through that with human feeling, but even when that doesn’t happen, the spectacle isn’t one you’re likely to turn away from.
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