Eliza Carthy comes from a family steeped in traditional folk, so it may seem somewhat disconcerting to see her with blue-streaked hair and pierced nose. While the music itself shows that Carthy hasn't completely turned her back on her roots, she is clearly determined to make her own path. Grounded in the folk and singer/songwriter school, she doesn't mind lacing her sound with pop rhythms, keyboards, and even trip-hop. Call it experimental folk. "Beautiful Girl" pushes forward with electronics and driving drums, creating a catchy beat that wouldn't be out of place on a Madonna album. However, the difference is the words, with biting lyrics like "Beautiful girl I know you're probably dead clever/But you're only gorgeous once and you'll be clever forever." The opening track, "Whispers of Summer," is much more folky, with Carthy's fiddle rising above the drum track to create a danceable melody. This cut is more upbeat than much of the material on the album. "The Company of Men" begins with a lyric about giving sexual favors "to men who didn't want me anymore"; the more oblique "Poor Little Me" is about a death, perhaps an abortion. Songs like "Train Song" and "Fuse" explore love and lust, themes that run throughout Angels & Cigarettes. These lyrics are at times emotionally bare, and everyone may not be comfortable with Carthy's revelations. But she seems determined to purge these emotions by turning them into art. The result is ten well-written songs, filled with searching lyrics and an innovative sound. For those who enjoy folk that's willing to take musical chances, Angels & Cigarettes is a gratifying release.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.