The jacket art of A Fine Frenzy’s most recent album, 2012’s Pines, is admittedly striking, if not particularly original. Swaddled in a blanket and bathed in a sepia filter, a doe-eyed, wild-haired bottle blonde stares into the distance. But what sets this young woman apart from any other girl on your Instagram feed is that as well as serving as the album’s cover model, she is also responsible for the music on Pines.
A Fine Frenzy (born Alison Sudol) creates the kind of hushed, delicate music we’ve come to expect from indie chanteuses in the past few years. As is the case with contemporaries such as Regina Spektor and Sarah Slean, her music is clearly very carefully crafted. Each cymbal crash feels meticulously timed, and she often individually highlights a variety of instruments in a single song for dramatic effect. She doesn’t quite offer the expansive soundscape of someone like Sufjan Stevens, but it also wouldn’t be a stretch to describe her music as lush.
The songwriting on Pines doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the album’s craftsmanship, though there are a number of highlights. “Riversong” is a stately and slow-burning ballad that, at nearly eight minutes long, somehow doesn’t wear out its welcome. Meanwhile, “Sailingsong” offers a welcome upbeat moment partway through the album, and Sudol’s voice really comes alive in the swooning, catchy chorus.
Some listeners could dismiss Pines as paint-by-numbers indie songwriting, and the bloated hour-plus runtime won’t appease the nay-sayers. But Sudol offers a dreamy, perfectly pleasant collection of tunes. She might not break new ground, but Pines still feels like a diamond in the rough.