Mars Arizona

Love Songs from the Apocalypse

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The duo of Paul Knowles and Nicole Storto make up the total population of Mars Arizona. As you might expect from he title of the album, the songs they present deal with people face to face with various kinds of disasters, most of them emotional and most brought on by their own poor judgment or bad decisions. There are touches of pedal steel here and there, but the instrument's played in a most uncountry-like manner, more to add texture to the arrangements rather than signal any obvious country influence. The music is rock and/or folk-rock with a touch of metal in Paul Knowles' lead and rhythm work, with the instruments mixed into a looming Wall of Sound to bring extra drama to the songs. Storto opens the album with two songs about women in trouble. "Promise Me Nothing" is the midtempo rock ballad, the lament of a women with low expectations. "Voyeur" is the more ominous tale of a stalker with the music building in volume and intensity as Storto's vocals turn from a resigned whisper to terrified scream. "How Do I Get Sane" has touches of metal in its bridge, again played off against a submissive, almost defeated vocal from Storto. Knowles takes lead and harmony vocals on "Old Hotel," a Southern style rocker that could be about mortality or urban renewal with a bluesy pedal steel solo from Tom Heyman. The album closes with two straightforward country tunes that prefigure the arrangements on the duo's next album All Over the Road. "Widow's Dream" is pure country and one of the album's strongest lyrics, with Knowles turning in a growling, vulnerable vocal. "Father Along," an old gospel tune, has lead and harmony vocals from Storto, delivered simply with two guitars, mandolin, and Knowles' bass harmonies. It provides a lovely coda to the noisy rockers that make up most of the record.

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