Paula Frazer & Tarnation

By - Mar 1st, 2007 02:52 pm

Not having thoroughly kicked all her baggage to the curb with 2005’s Leave the Sad Things Behind, San Francisco singer-songwriter Paula Frazer follows up with another album about moving on. Her fourth solo release, Now It’s Time, also revives her former band, Tarnation, as support.

Frazer soups up alt-country standbys with jangly honky-tonk piano on “Bitter Rose” and flamenco tambourine on “Another Day.” “Pretend” features a childlike yodeling reminiscent of a wooden train whistle. Effectively simple string arrangements flesh out many of the tracks.

If Frazer’s lyrics mirrored her eclectic instrumentation, Now It’s Time would be perfection, but she constantly recycles the same stale imagery (the sun, darkness, fire). But while the album would benefit if the storytelling were on par with the songwriting, the lack of lyrical originality is not necessarily detracting to Frazer, whose voice could draw listeners singing about…well…the sun, darkness and fire. Like Joni Mitchell meets Morrissey, Frazer’s soulful voice turns, trills and glides effortlessly from track to track. It’s sunken yet confident, parallel to the music it narrates.

Though overtly melancholy, these barbiturate-drenched songs find a way to float. Now It’s Time touches on relationships’ gray areas: when to stay and when to go, when to speak up and when to hold your tongue. Not uncertain, however, is Frazer’s ability to deliver a plush, relistenable disc for fans of the heavier-hyped (and less authentic) Neko Case and Jenny Lewis. VS

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