Stephanie Dosen - A Lily for the Spectre
Raised on a peacock farm where she used to write lullabies for swans and foxes, Wisconsin lass Stephanie Dosen certainly has the odd background one requires of a kooky folkstress. Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde certainly recognised Dosen's potential, signing her up to his Bella Union label and providing musical backdrops for her own songs and guitar work. The result is A Lily for the Spectre, a debut album that hopes to win the masses with its luminous soft pop.
Lead single This Joy opens the album, and it's not hard to see why; the summery optimism of this warm ballad evokes the best of The Sundays, a comparison no doubt helped along by Dosen's vocal similarity to Harriet Wheeler. Much of what follows occupies the same hazy acoustic space, Only Getting Better proving to be Dosen's own Summertime and Vinalhaven Harbor's harmony-soaked shimmer proving to be particularly lovely, despite lyrical references to a 'dark playground'. In fact, much of the lyrical content is deceptively eerie, the highlights of the record being the title track and Owl in the Dark, both of which are downbeat love songs for ghosts. Meanwhile, Death & the Maiden's lyrics tell the story of a tryst between the Reaper and the titular maiden but sets it to a more upbeat tempo, Dosen weaving her calming vocal magic as she tells us of Death's 'vampire grin'.
Despite the promise that these tracks offer, the remainder don't offer anything different enough for the album to be termed a definite success. Nothing is offensively bad, far from it in fact; Dosen's voice is stunning throughout, falling somewhere between Wheeler and Sinead O'Connor, and the sparse instrumentation is never less than pleasing to the ears. It's just that, after Joanna Newsom's double-whammy of The Milk-Eyed Mender and last year's Ys, this offering sounds a little thin on ideas in comparison. However, there's no denying that this lady has a formidable vocal talent and, with a little more musical experimentation along the way, she could prove to be formidable in more ways than one.