The first of two limited-edition albums released by Elephant Micah on the Time-Lag label in 2004, Palmyra Palm is a ready demonstration of the blurring lines between 'formal' and 'informal' releases. No mere collection of demos or random scraps, Palmyra Palm is a strong demonstration of Joseph O'Connell's skills under his chosen performance name. The hallmark combination of straightforward-enough singer/songwriter efforts with rough but often compelling experimentation (sometimes but not always stereotypically lo-fi -- often the strongest distinction is between fuzzier and perfectly clean sonic elements) in arrangements continues here apace. "The Paranoia," the solid opener, sets the mix-and-match tone well while not being the sole template for the album, always a good sign. Perhaps one of the most striking numbers comes near the start -- "Daniel's Song," where what appears to be a sudden interjection of extreme static or feedback suddenly turns into a near-melody, before the song suddenly shifts into a distanced vocal reverie. Wisely, O'Connell doesn't push things completely track for track, so if some songs like "The Greatest Claim" or "Be My Bright Light," the excellent album ender, are comparatively calmer, they act as fine showcases for his abilities in a straightforward fashion, his calm, lovely singing melancholic without being sappy. Perhaps the greatest strength as a result, with songs like "Girls Are Homely" or "Mercy on Us," is that they can evoke, in their own calm way (especially when O'Connell multi-tracks his singing) a sort of always-mythic Americana which rather than being re-created is being lovingly tweaked or twisted in directions only modern technology could provide. And indeed one song itself is called "Technology," and when O'Connell's overdubbed voice and frantic guitar playing on the chorus results in a thick frenzy that suddenly and precisely cuts off to lead into the calm drum machine start of "It's Music," O'Connell seems to make an implicit, careful point about tackling whatever options he wants.
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