Published Jan 22, 2016I first encountered Aoife O'Donovan's unmistakeable voice in the adventurously reimagined string band, Crooked Still. Equal parts waif and banshee, her warm, breathy voice brought a rare subtlety to the progressive string band scene. With the help of producer Tucker Martine (Neko Case, Beth Orton, the Decemberists), O'Donovan's second solo album, In The Magic Hour, leaves the string band format decidedly behind, and builds a sweeping, jazz-tinged folk-pop soundscape at times reminiscent of late '70s Joni Mitchell albums (think Don Juan's Reckless Daughter).
The ten songs here feature an all-star cast of musicians that have crossed O'Donovan's path over the years, like Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Chris Thile (Punch Brothers) and Nate Query (The Decemberists). And while many tracks stand out as particularly striking, like the quietly rhythmic "Hornets," "Jupiter," with its interplay of syncopated vocals and sparse percussion, or "Donal Og," on which O'Donovan's late grandfather's vocals wisp in near the end of the track, the moody, introspective album is best appreciated as a whole. With subtle rhythms and interesting melodies, In The Magic Hour delivers both lightness and depth in one hauntingly beautiful recording. (Yep Roc)