Happy Rhodes

The Keep

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Happy Rhodes' studio albums are typically synth-heavy, ambient, and spacy, enhancing the mysterious qualities of her unique voice. In the process of compiling an album of mostly "unplugged" rarities and live performances, however, Rhodes and her longtime producer Kevin Bartlett reveal a whole new level in her work. Say hello to Happy Rhodes, the folk singer. These arrangements strip away the ethereal strangeness and expose the underlying strength of her songwriting. Songs like "Temporary and Eternal," "Life on Mars," and "Save Our Souls" that once distanced the listener acquire a new immediacy. They also shed a different light on the remarkable dichotomy of her vocals, which alternate between a deeply sonorous baritone and a trillingly bright soprano. Bartlett divulges in the liner notes that fans hearing Rhodes for the first time have sometimes asked "who is that man singing with Kate Bush?" But the acoustic performances on The Keep sound less like Rhodes is singing a duet with herself and more like a single singer with a staggering range. As good as these reworkings of album tracks are, many of the best moments on The Keep are previously unreleased songs (e.g., the quiet fingerpicking and beautiful harmonies of "Bye Moon," the cutting social commentary of "Flash Me Up," and a lilting rendition of "Oh Holy Night.") Songs like these have the potential to attract a whole new audience to Happy's music. The Keep is that rarest of things: a novelty compilation that surpasses the major studio releases.

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