album review: elixir featuring katie noonan, first seed ripening
I was really excited to hear First Seed Ripening, the LP from Elixir featuring Katie Noonan when Dunja first asked me to review the album because it was made clear to me that Katie Noonan is a big deal in Australia. I had never heard of her or of the band and I quickly found her Wikipedia page; after I finished reading it, I was even more excited to hear her voice. I have come to the realization that there is nothing a New Yorker likes more than access to privileged information.
I truly am curious to see the reactions First Seed Ripening from you faithful readers in Australia in the comments section below. When I had finished listening the album the whole way through for the first time, I felt I must’ve been missing something because Katie Noonan is so loved there. But the more times I pressed repeat, the more I realized my initial feelings were right. Altogether, First Seed Ripening wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever heard, either.
The first song on the album, title track “First Seed Ripening”, gives a pretty accurate snapshot of what the rest of First Seed Ripening sounds like. It’s a slowly cascading, ethereal, poetic song that relies on the vocal agility of Noonan’s beautiful, soft soprano vocals. Although she is clearly accompanied by a solid string section, saxophone, drums and guitar, it’s really all about what she can do with her voice. It all sounds very pretty, but there is not much else to say besides that.
I’ve listened to the album at least six times through now, and I can’t remember the words to a single song. Well, let’s be honest – that’s the case with most of the albums I listen to, but what I mean to say here is that when I think of the album, all I can recall are somewhat strangely epic, jazzy arrangements in conjunction with her escalating high-pitched vocals on songs like “My Skin Is A Glove” and “Pierrot”.
I like the songs on the album that add a little something more than just Noonan’s hummingbird vocals. Whether it’s a more perceptible drum beat on “Stuff of Myths” or bluesy guitar on “Last Night’s Comfort”, harmonization and supporting vocals that compliment with the instrumental arrangement on “Traditional Song”, added production techniques on “Last Flowers To The Hospital”, these additional elements in the songs make them the most memorable on the album.
First Seed Ripening does not have the quality I look for most in a great album; it doesn’t stick with you long after the last song ends. The length of the album only exacerbates this. I can’t totally pan First Seed Ripening, though, because it is very clear that each member of Elixir is talented in their own right. What’s lacking here is a unity as a group. Katie is competing with the other members or something, trying to awkwardly make sense with the arrangement and lyrics of majority of the album.