[3 January 2007]
The latest album from Portland native Tara Jane O’Neil is barren, sparse, and quite precious. From the lullaby instrumental “Primer”, the musician moves into a quasi-Celtic folk feel with “A Partridge Song”, bringing to mind the likes of Judy Collins or Joan Baez. Downbeat and morose, some of the songs come to life in this framework, especially “The Louder”, which could have come from an Elliott Smith tribute album. O’Neil seems to have a light, flighty timbre in her voice during the simple but elegant “A Sparrow Song”, as does the somber, Cowboy Junkies-tinged “Blue Light Room”, which she shines on from start to finish. Just as gorgeous is the almost hypnotic “Need No Pony” that resembles an acoustic version of an Arcade Fire classic. One number that doesn’t measure up is “The Looking Box”. But generally, O’Neil manages to get the most out of these songs for an engaging, enjoyable, and soothing record.