Elysian Fields Queen Of The Meadow

Elysian Fields' flirtation with the big time didn't work - major labels couldn't quite work out how to sell them - but instead of languishing in limbo, Jetset snapped them up. Queen Of The Meadow is the band's second album (if you don't count the unreleased one they recorded with Steve Albini) and they're back making the best music of their career. Elysian Fields all comes down to one thing: Jennifer Charles' voice. It's what defines the band's sound and what stays with you long after the music ends. She is a torch singer in the classic definition; her sultry whispered vocals don't require much in the way of accompaniment and the sparseness of most songs works to the band's advantage. Even the one song where Charles is left to supply backing vocals works because their dealings with the likes of John Zorn and Hal Wilner have left their mark when it comes to the song's arrangements - simple yet complex through subtle suggestion rather than anything obvious. The influences of both Kurt Weill and Serge Gainsbourg on the songwriting is also apparent; the songs are thick with atmosphere and emotion. If you like your melancholy to be dark yet palatable, then this is the place to look. (Jetset)