Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Album Review: Julia Deans Modern Fables

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Rating: 3/5
Verdict: Fur Patrol leader's impressive solo outing

Julia Deans' Modern fables album cover. Photo / Supplied
Julia Deans' Modern fables album cover. Photo / Supplied

Now out on her own after leading Fur Patrol from a brief period of local hits into transtasman obscurity, Julia Deans' debut solo album finds her exploring her musical options.

If it sounds a bit of a patchwork, perhaps that's down to the hemisphere-hopping of its recording sessions and the cast of tens helping out with the backing. And though she might be joining the ranks of the solo female singer-songwriter squad, Deans is no shrinking violet as a singer here. The songs themselves do sound personal, with Deans sounding variously heart-bruised, bitter (especially on the barbed but lovely New Dialogue) and a little hopeful around the edges.

A few of the 10 tracks (especially the title and Recovery) sound like they could have sat at the soft big-chorus end of her old band's setlist, though here mostly she's framing her expressive vocals in a mix of acoustic and electronic settings. So musically this sure shifts through some gears.

That's right from the elegant torch-song opener Little Survivor through to the wide-horizon country twang of High and Clear to the ethereal artpop excursions of Skin.

Not all of the fresh approach works.The delicate Friend is overpowered by a car alarm-sized synthesizer going off in the middle of it and on the acoustic ballad Run, what is an otherwise lovely song goes a bit too Idol in its singing for its own good.

Still, the best of Fables shows that Deans' striking out alone might just be the making of her.

- NZ Herald

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