Laura Veirs' Seattle is not a city plagued by rain and enormous bowls of coffee; rather, it's a metropolitan snow globe trapped in a solid sheet of ice. The 13 songs that make up her fourth album (and Nonesuch debut), Carbon Glacier, rely on Veirs' free associating motor-mouth imagery to dig them out the tundra, and it's a testament to her skills as an interpreter that the majority of them break through. That's also thanks in part to the intricate arrangements and superb musicianship from her "Tortured Souls," Steve Moore, Karl Blau, and producer/drummer Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse). Martine allows the experimentation to bloom in all the right places, resulting in a record that never overworks itself, despite being packed to the gills with ghostly glockenspiels, organs, random percussion, and trombone. Veirs' hypnotic voice cuts through it all with deadpan sincerity -- she's equally capable of pitch-perfect beauty ("Lonely Angel Dust") or tightrope uneasiness ("Icebound Stream") -- that comes off somewhere between Nina Nastasia and Jolie Holland. Her ability to sound as comfortable singing over grungy and compressed drum loops as she does on simple folk tunes is admirable, and it makes all of the genre-hopping exceptionally fluid. Even at her warmest, she exudes a certain collegiate coolness, and when Carbon Glacier begins to drag -- and it does near the end -- Veirs manages to retain and command a level of anticipation/fascination that's the mark of a true artist.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger