Review Summary: Ms. Sudol takes some Prozac and produces an album so slightly weaker than her stellar debut it hardly matters.
My first impression(s) of Bomb in a Birdcage
basically went like this: “Okay, where is that slightly depressed girl singing about heartbreak and inadvertently having us dream of dating her and helping make her feel better" This girl is happy. She’s also fallen victim to the sophomore slump.”
But I digress. One Cell in the Sea
wasn’t really a “depressing” album, and it wasn’t necessarily subdued or slow either -“Lifesize” and (to a lesser extent) “Rangers” are testaments to that. While excellent, One Cell…
definitely wasn’t perfect. Things felt a little all over the place, and at 61 minutes, it was at least a bit long for a pop album. It’s safe to say that Bomb in a Birdcage
fixes both problems.
Allison Sudol (the woman behind the AFF moniker) said, “I think some people may be surprised [by the album]. I’m a quiet person with a loud streak, and this record is a testament to that.” “What I Wouldn’t Do” immediately begins to prove she’s at least partly right. Bomb in a Birdcage
is decidedly more upbeat than One Cell in the Sea
, it stays under 45 minutes long, and although it’s still a collection of songs, …Birdcage
feels more like an album than her debut did.
Of course, this would mean little if the songs weren’t good, but the 11 tracks here are lacking little in that department. Bomb in a Birdcage
is one of ‘09’s best pop albums, a catchy, well crafted effort with touches of indie – it shares a lot more with Feist than Lady Gaga. Aforementioned opener “What I Wouldn’t Do” starts off things on a high note, “Electric Twist” wouldn’t sound all that out of place on Regina Spektor’s last two albums (with a decent dose of quirkiness, of course), and the rest of the first five tracks form one of the best stretches on any album from this year. Even when things wind down for ballads, Sudol’s voice and the music keep things interesting. And speaking of her voice, it displays wonderful range, rarely (if ever) sounds weak, and exudes not only charm but an almost youth-like innocence as well.
The only question that comes from Bomb in a Birdcage
(besides why they made her look slightly ugly for the cover) is where she should go from here. She’s conquered the sophomore slump and proven an ability to evolve, albeit certainly not drastically. As long as the output stays consistent, AFF is likely to build up quite an impressive catalog and similar fanbase. In the meantime, we have two stellar pop albums, and the bonus that Sudol is easy on the eyes.