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Cortney Tidwell

Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

(!K7; US: 20 Feb 2007; UK: 10 Jul 2006)

When you first put on this record from singer-songwriter Cortney Tidwell, you might think it is just another example of boring folk music with nothing to offer beyond nice cute little guitarry things and her admittedly adorable voice—but wait for it. Keep listening. You start hearing the Farfisa line underpinning everything, you start realizing that she is slurring out some serious beatnik poetry, you start thinking “okay this isn’t so bad as these things go but really seriously what is it with this whole freak-folk movement, it’s 2007 already and yes I know this came out in the U.K. last year but really, Eddie Hazel fought and died to keep this kind of music out of my earhole, why must we—”


And then, when the timer hits 1:58, the universe explodes. Suddenly, drums start bashing out a funeral tattoo, guitars break into some scorched-earth stuff like Radiohead used to do back when they liked music, a whole host of Cortney Tidwells gather themselves into an angel’s choir. It comes out of nowhere, and it is awesome and powerful and beautiful. Freak-folk, all your sins are forgiven.


But this has a lot more to do with the good kind of alt.country (Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis, The Czars, etc., as opposed to those corny pop dudes who just want to piggyback on country’s broad shoulders, I won’t mention any names here) than any kind of Devendra/Sufjan/Joanna nexus. “Our Time” has nice jangly old-timey lines like an old Marty Robbins song, and “Society” has a nice little sexy jazzy strut with a low backing voice ... why, I do declare, that’s Kurt Wagner of Lambchop! As I live and breathe!


“La La” is a great single, riding low and smooth and melancholy (“I never look on the bright side”) with a wonderful sarcastic/hopeful chorus (“And we all know a song that’s tearin’ everybody else up / It goes ‘fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa’ / And the words that you use are ‘laleelaleelaleela la’”). But it is telling that this pretty hard-edged country-pop confection spends its closing moments fading into cool psychedelia.


Because it then segues into the lovely epic title track. This song unfolds, over the course of seven minutes, to encompass electronic music, chamber pop, country-folk, hippie rock (some serious Jefferson Airplane vibes at times), spacey ambient music, and a few more genres that I’m not sure are invented yet. And yes it also sounds like Radiohead at times, but also kind of like 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” and OOIOO and Kraftwerk and Erykah Badu and Dani Siciliano. And this reviewer is a sucker for all that stuff. Then, at the end, it gets really weird.


So let this be two lessons to you. One, never turn off a CD after 1:45, even if it sounds kind of boring to you. Two, better start respecting Cortney Tidwell now, before she takes over the universe.

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