Like an indie rock Joan of Arc, Mary Timony continues to pursue her moody, mystical musical vision with The Golden Dove, her second proper solo album. Mountains, her debut, frustrated as many of Timony's fans as it fascinated; those looking for more of the crunchy, cryptic-yet-aggressive rock she perfected with Helium were left especially puzzled by the willful delicacy of her solo work. For better or worse, The Golden Dove essentially sounds like a more focused version of Mountains, with a fuller, richer production, courtesy of Timony, Al Weatherhead, and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous. The Golden Dove is also more focused in its weirdness than Timony's previous album -- it's presented as the work of a Ms. Charming Melodee, there's a cover of the 17th century tune "I Prithee Send Me Back My Heart," and the liner notes feature footnotes to some of Timony's lyrical allusions. And, as with Mountains, once you get past the album's airy-fairy conceits, The Golden Dove reveals itself as too intriguing to be easily dismissed. At its best, it juxtaposes Timony's precise, often precious musicianship with sharp-tongued insights: On "Blood Tree," she's a medieval Liz Phair, telling her lover "Go away/Leave me alone/Go chew on your dog's bone/The only boy I ever loved/turned into a Golden Dove/And moved to California." The disturbing imagery, and correspondingly lovely melodies, of eerie songs like "Dr. Cat," "14 Horses," and "The Owl's Escape" -- which sounds like a demented '70s singer/songwriter piano ballad -- suggest that Timony's feelings run so deep that they must be disguised with flowery words and music for her to express them. Even the album's most immediate moments, such as the sensual "Magic Power" and "Dryad and the Mule," still have a prickly distance that makes them hard to fully embrace. Ultimately, The Golden Dove puts the "independent" back in indie-rock: It's beautiful, weird, and difficult to love, and Timony probably wouldn't want it any other way.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares