Robin Aigner

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Bandito Review

by James Allen

Any preconceptions about what Bandito sounds like, based on the fact that Robin Aigner has a background in folk and old-timey music and has surrounded her tunes here with fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar, should be immediately abandoned. Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Aigner -- who also plays with rootsy outfits like Piñataland and the Strung Out String Band -- may count the likes of Gillian Welch and the Carter Family among her influences, but her songs are coming from a distinctly modern perspective. Her idiosyncratic, detail-oriented lyrical style is more in line with, say, the Decemberists' Colin Meloy than any gingham-wearing folkie types. This much is clear from the very beginning of Bandito, Aigner's fourth album, when the first track, "Pearl Polly Adler," offers up a first-person account from the titular character, a notorious pre-WWII New York City madam who has "been to the Campbell Apartment at the invitation of FDR." Having thus set the mood, the rest of the album is a wild ride through the lives of a host of keenly observed characters whose quirks are embraced, not mocked, in Aigner's thoughtful compositions, from "Delores from Florence" to "Annie and Irving" and "Mediocre Busker." The all-acoustic context for these tunes definitely lends some of them a bit of an Old World quality, but it also allows them much more room to breathe and to insinuate themselves in the mind of the listener than a full-on drums-and-electric-guitars approach might. And besides, Aigner's writing is so undeniably contemporary that there's never any danger of Bandito being banished to the old-timey bin. The lone misstep comes toward the end of the album, with the too-cute boy/girl duet "Get Me Home," but it's an anomalous moment on a record that's otherwise consistently intriguing and packed with pleasant surprises.

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