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– Natalie Merchant – s/t (Nonesuch)

Boxx Magazine | Natalie Merchant – s/t (Nonesuch)

Sunday 27th December 2015,


Natalie Merchant – s/t (Nonesuch)

Jonathan Shipley May 6, 2014

Overall Score


Natalie Merchant is the old vanguard of alternative music, creating albums longer than women like Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Paula Cole and Imogen Heap. She’s been around for about as long as the grand lady of alternative music herself, Kate Bush. But even with the passing of time, Natalie Merchant lives on and her new self-titled album, her first collection of original material since 2001’s Motherland, is living proof that she’s still got it. “It” being the ability to craft great songs around great melodies.

It was in 10,000 Maniacs that the music world took note of Natalie Merchant. Joining them in 1981, the band made a star of her with albums like In My Tribe and Blind Man’s Zoo. And then she left in 1995 to start her own solo career, which shes done with earnest and solid albums like Tigerlily, Ophelia and The House Carpenter’s Daughter

Now, she’s returned. The Merchant we’ve come to love. She’s quieter now, more introspective, a bit melancholic, but with the same amount of heart and thought and self-knowledge that we’re used to—maybe while she named the album after herself. On it, early track “Go Down, Moses” is like a 1960s R&B soul number with horns and organs and back-up singers. The opening track, and best song on the album, “Lady Bird,” is a 6-plus minute anthem that builds and builds, then builds upon that into a crashing crescendo.

“Lulu” is a strange little incidental song that sounds like a 1920s roadhouse warrior, perfect, say, for a black-and-white silent cartoon. “Seven Deadly Sins,” another strong addition to the album, starts with a slow guitar before cracking open with just Merchant’s voice. That haunting voice. Always haunting, like Merchant is hurting. “So afraid to fall asleep/Afraid to wake/And afraid to dream.”

If you dream, listeners, of another great Natalie Merchant album, your wish is granted.