After teasing listeners with the enigmatic Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole EP earlier in the year, singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright comes clean with a lush, eponymous debut that should secure herself a place as one of the genre's finest young practitioners. BMFA, despite its headline-grabbing title, showed an artist of considerable depth and vision, attributes that she builds on tenfold with her first foray into full-length territory. Wainwright tears through words the way her mother, Kate McGarrigle, does, inserting mischievous pauses, experimenting with cadences, or sometimes just pulling the phrase out like a wad of taffy, while all of the while in complete control of the overall narrative. On the gorgeous opener, "Far Away," she waxes nostalgic for old friends and lovers. Backed by swirling guitars and piano she pines "I have no children/I have no husband/I have no reason to be alive/Oh give me one" without seeming the least bit ruined -- a poetic knack that she uses effectively throughout the record's entirety. It's a brave and delicate way to begin, and it engages the listener immediately with its subtle balance of voyeurism and wistfulness. "G.P.T." and "Factory" pick up the pace a bit, showcasing Wainwright's deft melodicism and mischievous nature -- the latter is in full effect on the raunchy "Ball & Chain" -- and "Don't Forget" and "These Flowers," two achingly beautiful ballads that bring to mind early Joni Mitchell, round out a first half that's awfully hard to top. Despite a couple of questionable midtempo offerings, Wainwright manages to keep the quality high, with a lovely duet with brother Rufus ("The Maker") and the aforementioned "BMFA," which is far more bold and beautiful than the title suggests, before closing with an intimate and affecting rendition of Vaughan Williams' "Whither Must I Wander." Wainwright's got all of the familial genes that make a child of music destined for success, but it's her fierce nature -- whether saucy and confident or just plain wrecked -- that makes every twist and turn of this impressive debut so easy to fall in love with.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
feat: Rufus Wainwright