Sister Kinderhook

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On Rasputina's seventh album, bandleader Melora Creager reconstitutes a new lineup -- including a new male member, cellist/singer Daniel DeJesus -- to continue her exploration of the string trio/pop song approach she has made her own over the course of nearly two decades. Released in a year when Joanna Newsom made her own most sprawling artistic statement to date, it's become all the easier to see how Creager and Rasputina served as a touchstone for many who followed. The lyrical focus of Sister Kinderhook is clear enough from the title and art alone -- the early decades of America and numerous features and story from a more rural existence. Framing the album with a song about "Sweet Sister Temperance" and using lyrics from "My Porcelain Life," Emily Dickinson is as much of a signal as anything, and not surprising given Rasputina's fairly consistent vision regarding a female-centric continuum of artistic inspiration. Elsewhere, there's explicit references to New York history ("Calico Indians," describing the Anti-Rent War of 1844) as well as more imaginative stories of the darker fairy tale variety ("Holocaust of Giants," "Snow-Hen of Austerlitz"). Yet it's the sonic variety of the album that stands out all the clearer, ranging from the high notes and closely sung words of "The 2 Miss Leavens" to the contrasting vocals and slowly descending chords of "My Night Sky" to the rumbling music box percussion and chimes of "Olde Dance" -- and those are just three songs in order out of 14.

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