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Cover Art Edith Frost
[Drag City]
Rating: 7.7

"Stop what you're doin'/ 'Cause I'm about to ruin/ The image and the style that you're used to." That's not how Edith Frost's Telescopic kicks off; it's the first line from the Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance." But wouldn't it be something to hear Frost get dirty on the mike?

Nah, instead of a Fear of a Black Planet for 1998, Frost has come down from her Chicago-y heaven to provide the world with a collection of sparkling pop trax and sentimental ballads. The rockin' opener, "Walk On The Fire," is a subtly bluesy-- and extremely catchy-- chunk of indie pop. With its backwards guitar parts, amplified violins, lo-fi drumset and irresistible melody, the song sounds like the demon child of Liz Phair and the Olivia Tremor Control. And that's just one of the 12 incredibly diverse tracks Telescopic has to offer.

But Frost veers off in multiple directions on this outing, her songs drawing comparisons to people like Patsy Cline ("The Very Earth"), fellow Chicagoans the Handsome Family ("Light," "You Belong To No One"), and early Neil Young ("Bluish Bells"). And looking at the "What's On My Stereo" section of Edith's website, it all becomes clear-- her taste in music ranges from the dark experimentalism of Godspeed You Black Emperor and Laurie Anderson to self- loathing folk stuff like Elliott Smith and Lisa Germano.

Yeah, you're probably going to read some reviews that lump Edith Frost in with modern folkies like Mary Lou Lord, Chan Marshall of Cat Power, Barbara Manning, Smog's Bill Callahan, and the Silver Jews' D.C. Berman-- an insight that's not entirely inaccurate. But Telescopic demonstrates Frost's unique ability to add incredible depth to simple song structures. Take the sorrowful ballad "Tender Kiss" for example-- all she really needed was an acoustic guitar and vocal part to nicely execute the track. Instead, she brought in a somewhat complicated Casio keyboard tango drum patch, a subtle vocal harmony, a flute of some kind, and a mourning violin. Sound overblown? Remarkably, the song remains sparse- sounding and beautiful.

So, even if we didn't get the rap masterpiece we've been hoping for this year (let's face it-- that Pras record was just plain bad), we did get another great slice of well- produced contemporary folk-pop from Edith Frost and the folks down at Drag City Records. Predictable.

-Ryan Schreiber

"Walk On The Fire"

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10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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