Mary Margaret O'Hara

Apartment Hunting

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After releasing Miss America, an acclaimed debut album that still routinely tops critics' lists of all-time best albums, it's probably understandable that Mary Margaret O'Hara pulled a disappearing act: Apart from one EP and guest appearances on other artists' albums, there was nothing even remotely resembling a follow-up album for nearly a decade and a half. With the release of this album, she's managed to find a way to avoid any accusations of a sophomore jinx or even any serious comparisons to that stellar debut. After all, it's only a soundtrack, right? As you'd expect with a soundtrack release, the material is a bit uneven, designed more to fit the movie than any notions of a proper album -- the reason O'Hara was pulled from seclusion to record this soundtrack was because she played the main role in the film. Likewise, though the bulk of the material is indeed by O'Hara, there are also tracks by other artists, including Klave y Kongo, O'Hara's guitarist Rusty McCarthy, and a couple of tracks by the film's director, Bill Robertson. The tracks by O'Hara herself are more jazzy than before, and while the vocals are certainly more staid in places, a few tracks show her cutting loose, old style, like she was possessed and trying to cast out her demons by forcing them out through her lungs. True, the album doesn't hold together as a proper album because it's a soundtrack. True, the tracks from the artists, while perfectly fine, tend to derail any momentum O'Hara manages to build up, despite the soundtrack format. True, there are moments here that are glorious no matter the format of the album ("I Don't Care," "Was You," "Rain," and "Dream I Had (II)" come to mind). Sadly truest: This is probably the closest listeners are going to get to a proper album for quite some time, and as all copies appear to be individually numbered, this addition to her already sparse catalog may end up being an extremely rare collectable. Judging by the caliber of the material on this one, she's still got the touch. One can only hope it's not another decade and a half before she does another album's worth of material.

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