Josie Cotton

Frightened by Nightingales

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Temporarily converting the spelling of her stage name (her real name is Kathleen Josey), Josey Cotton returned unexpectedly over a decade after her second major-label album, 1984's From the Hip. Though 1995's Frightened by Nightingales is co-produced and mixed by Geza X, who had recorded her first single, 1982's "Johnny, Are You Queer?" and was now married to Cotton, this album of spooky, arty dream pop couldn't be further from the kicky new wave of Cotton's earlier records. Cotton sports a moderately revised singing voice here; the delicious whininess of before is still there, but modulated lower, without those occasional leaps into the helium range. The music, however, is completely different. Seemingly influenced by the Kate Bush/Jane Siberry axis of art pop, Cotton colors these lengthy songs with atmospheric keyboard washes, skirling violins (courtesy of producer and collaborator Bill Rhea), and layered backing vocals. The lyrics tend to the opaque, though without the anvil-like pretentiousness so common to this style of neo-prog, and the melodies underpinning the tracks reveal themselves fully upon repeated listens. Frightened by Nightingales is not for anyone expecting a retread of Convertible Music, but "serious" music fans who might look askance at Cotton's bubblegum roots will be pleasantly surprised.

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