Music

Josephine Foster's 'Faithful Fairy Harmony' Will Carry Listeners to a Far-off Fairytale Realm

Photo: M Borthwick / Courtesy of Fire Records

Faithful Fairy Harmony finds Josephine Foster scouring enchanted realms to create a puckish musical vim and sylphish harmonic verve.

Faithful Fairy Harmony
Josephine Foster

Fire

16 November 2018

Whimsy and fortitude have always found a balance within Josephine Foster's music. A folk scene veteran, Foster's music is defined by its ability to procure folly and grace from unexpected soundscapes. Her most recent release, Faithful Fairy Harmony, finds Foster scouring enchanted realms to create puckish musical vim and sylphish harmonic verve. If one could score magical realism, Faithful Fairy Harmony is the penultimate soundtrack. Accompanying herself on guitar, piano, organ, harp, autoharp, the 18-track double LP affirms Foster's stellar musicality.

Faithful Fairy Harmony showcases Foster's vocal dexterity redolent of her oeuvre. The album opens with "Soothsayer Song" featuring a harp's ascending harmony eventually meeting Foster's imperfect vocals. Her voice intentionally warbles evoking Edith Piaf's essence while setting the album's chimeric atmosphere. Her gentle humming on "The Virgin in the Snow" strengthens into notes illustrating her vocal finesse and precision. Trained as an opera singer, Foster's range on Faithful Fairy Harmony is remarkable. Especially on "Eternity" and "Challenger", she unapologetically use her vocals to emote then jubilate. Throughout the album, her vocal delivery is empowered yet haunting. Accompanied by uncomplicated instrumentation and never overproduced, Faithful Fairy Harmony is demonstrative of Foster's arresting vocals.

Foster is a wordsmith and her narratives verge on prose. She conjures bewitching imagery, and her lyrics create a sorcerous energy. Consider the mysticism inundating from the opening track: "Come all you young children / across the world / and see what your fortune portends." From the album's first moments, she lures the listeners into her world then sustains a dazzling effect. Utilizing harps, soprano vocals, and a multitude of string instruments, the music constructs a fairy realm. This is the unequivocal intent in "Shepard Moon on a Starry Night". The music, lyrics, and vocals create an evident parallel pushing the natural world to the peripheral. The cacophony created by Victor Herror's Portuguese guitar, Gyða Valtýsdóttir's cello, and Foster's organ ushers in an enchanted and magical sound.

Throughout Faithful Fairy Harmony, Foster's music resembles lyrical poetry. The first person narrative in "Pining Away" enshrines her perspective while exhibiting an intense emotion. The track cascades in sentiment when she sings, "though a maelstrom makes you leave like a tree / I bend toward thee / a damsel down on bended knee / my knotty heart she bleeds and bleeds." As many lyrical poems, Foster's gaze is cast internally thereby providing a clear image of her own heart and mindset. Similarly, "I was Glad's" depiction of concession and revelation echoes Sylvia Plath's confessional style lyrical poems. Ending the album with the title track, Foster's harp playing makes it easy to visualize her as the muse Erato. Much as Erato strummed her lyre to summon the powers of music and poetry, Foster also uses music and lyrics to convene deep personal emotions. However, Foster is not about to take herself too seriously. She incorporates a kazoo, adding a layer of fancifulness over the track's solemnity.

Foster aficionados expect her albums to cast a wide reach across the musical spectrum. Indeed, Faithful Fairy Harmony is a musical amalgam ranging from spirituals, ballads, confessionals, prayers, and blues. "All Pales Next to You" returns Foster to a traditional folk sound while the subsequent "Lord of Love's" percussion creates an Eastern European, almost gypsy-like, quality. The balance of voice and guitar on "Little Lamb" recalls her 2006 foray with German art songs. Yet at times, albeit infrequently, the quintessential fairy tale harmonics are somewhat gimmicky. It's impossible not to imagine Snow White singing to birds or Sleeping Beauty frolicking in the forests with critters. Foster is not to blame for the Disneyfication of ballad and folk music nor the audiences' singular understanding of fairy tale scores. Faithful Fairy Harmony is, in fact, a useful tool for expanding musical awareness.

As such, Foster uses her dazzling vocals and adroit musicality to explore the depth of musical culture while showcasing her copious talent. Faithful Fairy Harmony will certainly carry listeners to a far-off fairytale realm.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.