Marina Allen

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Centrifics Review

by Marcy Donelson

On her debut album, Candlepower, Los Angeles singer/songwriter Marina Allen illuminated her gentle, crystalline vocal delivery with a highly lyrical, sophisticated songcraft deeply indebted to the '70s singer/songwriter pop of artists like Carole King, Laura Nyro, and Karen Carpenter. A year later, Centrifics expands upon this stylistic base, lightly incorporating the influence of artists spanning Meredith Monk and Joanna Newsom. The record was engineered and produced by Chris Cohen (Deerhoof, the Curtains). A song like the bittersweet piano ballad "Getting Better" still dwells in the ear-pleasing realm of her debut, but opener "Celadon" begins with a bass-and-piano ostinato that underscores a string arrangement and an often glissando-free, piano-like vocal melody. This type of attention to technique was evident on Candlepower but appears in higher-contrast forms on Centrifics, such as when she explores her higher vocal range on the lithe "Or Else" and the resigned lower end on "Halfway Home." The latter song still selectively employs vibrato and dynamics while delivering world-weary lyrics like "I get tired of the song, the metronome and yearning/I get tired of the day, forgetting and remembering/I get tired of me." The dreamy celesta and intimate singing performance that define "New Song Rising" seem to transport listeners to another venue entirely, as does the flute-ornamented vocalise of the quiet "Smoke Bush," with its arpeggiated acoustic, then later buzzy electric guitar, and 12/8 rhythmic structure. Elsewhere, the melancholic, saxophone-bolstered retro-pop of "Foul Weather Jacket Drawing" finds Allen's voice double-tracked. Despite these slight diversions and subtle experiments, one couldn't be faulted for wondering if Allen may have missed her calling as a Schoolhouse Rock composer in the tradition of Lynn Ahrens -- a testament to her irrepressible melodic instincts.

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