Rita Redshoes

Lights & Darks

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Rita Redshoes' second album is an inspired romp through the many variations of female-fronted music, held together by a heavy cabaret slant. Tori Amos is perhaps the most easily spotted -- and the most expected -- influence, clearly audible on piano-led tunes like "Captain of My Soul," an obvious throwback to the likes of "Happy Phantom," only with less quirkiness. But "Holy Ghost" offers gospel choirs instead, "You Should Go" is a country ballad, and "Which One Is the Witch?" sounds like a track straight off a Pram record (which is never a bad thing). Stuff like old-fashioned dance rhythms, pop/rock in the Suzanne Vega vein, and guitar-only folk strumming also pop up, although the songs also share some things in common: Lights & Darks sticks to a low-key mood, mostly stays clear of the fast lane, and gives the spotlight to Redshoes' singing. She's got a strong voice, knows better than to seek cheap effect through histrionics, and has a lot to say, though she could benefit from a more versatile approach (most of the time, she just sounds mildly aloof). Nevertheless, it's tricky to piece the record together from the songs it offers on the first listen, especially since Lights & Darks doesn't have a clear identity -- without new styles to be explored, it never becomes more than the sum of its influences and almost sounds like a sampler of Redshoes' favorite songs, not a set of originals. But despite its failings, the album packs enough skill to be worth checking out for indie pop aficionados.

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