Tara Jane O'Neil

You Sound, Reflect

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As Tara Jane O'Neil's voice quavers though the opening of the shifting lament "Howl," a lilting summer ballad that exhibits a feel similar to that of an Americanized Fairport Convention, there is a shyness that emanates, but elements of bravery too, as if she's aware that she is about to divulge too much information but is unable to stop herself. By holding all of this under pressure, seemingly restraining the fullness of the possibilities, O'Neil expertly builds the momentum of her third long-player, You Sound, Reflect, by silently winding up all of this confused energy and then dropping it to split the chaos with razors of clarity. O'Neil's previous outings have all had tension and urgency baked in, but it is with You Sound, Reflect that she superbly constructs the cinematic feel of her songs to convey a storyline. Through warm guitars, hollow banjos, layered fiddles, lush vocals, samples, etc., O'Neil beautifully creates an environment for her lyrics to breathe and grow and create a display simultaneously modest and showy, but most importantly, a deep emotional landscape to be lost in. The lovely opening instrumental, "Take the Waking," unfolds with keyboard and percussive guitar loops underneath warm and bright decorative guitars and wordless vocals that churn the sound into a confusing dichotomy: sweet and sinister. It is a perfect opener since the majority of the record flirts with both adjectives, dispensing a lovely melody here followed by a disturbing turn of phrase there, while somehow maintaining a fragile balance between the two. Via this balance, O'Neil inexplicably embodies an emotional side that, like all well-conceived art, brings to light the fascination with conflict and resolve inherent in the human condition, but what sets You Sound, Reflect apart from so many recordings is its ambition in covering so much ground instead of closing in on the small details of a conflict, such as the classic songwriter's topic of unrequited love. O'Neil weaves in and out of her variances the same way she, or anyone, might spend an afternoon contemplating the fortunes and misfortunes of the past, recognizing the turbulences and reporting on them, but refusing to dwell too much. The result is a very human, honest recording. Perhaps it is pompous to intellectualize You Sound, Reflect in this way, but it is a conundrum in that it is such an artsy yet breezy and accessible affair, difficult to pin down by only mentioning the technicalities of its makeup.

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