Andrea Maxand: Angel Hat

Jason MacNeil

Andrea Maxand

Angel Hat

Label: Montesano
US Release Date: 2002-05-03

From her earlier days with the Minerals, a Seattle-based indie-pop band, Andrea Maxand continues to forge a small but slowly widening fan base. With the help of Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, Maxand released her debut album this past year with plans for a subsequent EP of material. The EP, unlike the album, will come complete with a full band and supporting cast. But judging by the first album, it appears there will be more on the way from an impressive vocalist. And hopefully all by her lonesome.

Having done nearly all of the instrumentation and arrangements for the nearly dozen songs presented, Maxand starts off with a simple yet infectious tone on the opening "Survival of the Sentiment". Using her electric guitar and especially her voice to carry the track's melody, the song deals with the end of a relationship and coming to the realization it's over. "Hey just let go and let deity have its way," she sings as the song's intensity deliberately rises without any percussion. Maxand's voice isn't exactly coffeehouse friendly, which is a bonus considering the glut of such musicians out there. Her voice has more Throwing Muses in it than Natalie Merchant.

"Velveteen" offers up more of the same but consists of a nice alternative rock rhythm through it. Maxand has a lot in common with Canadian indie-rock singer Julie Doiron. But where as Doiron tends to concentrate on more of a down-tempo or somber arrangements, Maxand goes the alternate route, taking a lemon and making sonic lemonade with it. "Distractions" has Maxand giving the listener brief theatrics with her voice and is all the better for it. The last portion of the song tends to be a bit monotonous though. Fortunately, "Spun" has a definite edge to it, seemingly ready to burst out into some pop rock concoction. Maxand's creates a tension in the song in the style of the Velvet Underground by refusing to give into a bombastic guitar solo. Samples and loops close the number out, but they add little.

The first hint of drums appear on "When God Shuts the Door" under Maxand's guitar. It's perhaps the album's highpoint as everything fits perfectly for nearly three minutes. Maxand sounds like she's in love with a harder sound and isn't keen on stopping just yet. The moody "Not Through Me" though doesn't work well because its mellowness and the almost spoken word delivery of the lyrics are somewhat annoying. Maxand gives a nice vocal for the song's latter half, but the early portion leaves a sour taste of what could have been throughout. "Keep Away" is the album's highpoint, as Maxand swerves between brief high and ethereal vocals and simple "ba da da" ad-libbing in some parts.

Maxand rarely shows his vocal array, but the lullaby vocals on "Peace on TV" are extremely soothing, despite the quirky and voyeuristic topic. "Could I make peace on TV?" she asks as over a naked but consistent guitar chord. Thankfully no loops or samples are added, leaving a less is more idea working quite well. One of the truer songs is "Whine and Shine", which deals with the mundane routine of everyday life, but also sheds some light on songwriter's block. "Who cares who your friends are rock star and shouldn't I have learned another song," she sings. Closing out with her own harmonies on "Penny", Maxand seems content moving between lullaby and ambitious alternative pop. It seems a fitting conclusion for an album of strong musicianship, songwriting, and ideas coming to fruition.

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