The one thing that Megan Reilly will always have going for her is her voice. It's emotional yet gentle, expressive yet subtle, and considering the relative tranquility and quietness of her debut, Arc of Tessa, it's the definite driving force behind the album. It just yearns to be listened to. That being said, it's unfortunate that there are so many moments on the record that blend into one another, the first four songs practically becoming one 20-minute indistinct mass of lap steel, strummed acoustic guitar, soft drums and bass, and the occasional tinkling piano. It's a pretty mass to be sure, and very atmospheric, but it's not particularly memorable. Reilly hasn't quite found herself as a songwriter, and her lack of distinct choruses, coupled with very similar melodic interpretations, end up creating only a muddied kind of background. The songs all start out nicely, but she doesn't develop them enough to make them anything but lush descriptive pieces and darkly pastoral scenes. But this is giving an unfair impression: Arc of Tessa is a nice album, and towards the second half, Reilly begins to pick things up a bit. The cover of Roy Orbison's "Evergreen" shows some of the range of the singer's voice, and "Annie B" is absolutely a rock song, with nearly indecipherable lyrics and a few urgent near-howls that seem to echo across the prairie. The other cover on the record, Van Morrison's "Gypsy," is fantastic, more rock-oriented than the original, and employs some very effective background singing. When things wrap up with "He Is" and "Arc of Tessa," two slower songs, it's a nice contrast to the energy of the earlier tunes. The same problems that were found in the beginning of the record seem to disappear as she sadly sings "black is the lightest word I can use to describe his absence/but light is the only thing I can make myself know to keep from dying," because you know just what she can do, and that she's not going anywhere. Arc of Tessa is only the beginning of Megan Reilly, a strong showing from a talented singer who, by the time she returns five years later with Let Your Ghost Go, will have a very clear idea of what she wants to do.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown