Bibi Farber

Second Kiss

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Bibi Farber's second album, Second Kiss, is an enjoyable, deeply personal piece of confessional pop/rock, coupling good hooks, sweet, lofty harmonies, and strong lead vocals with melodic guitar and piano (think of the way Jackie DeShannon might've sounded if she'd been born a generation or so later). Farber's voice at times recalls Kate Bush from such numbers as "The Morning Fog," and at other times brings to mind Melanie in her prime, at her most accessible and expressive, without ever sounding exactly like either; she's just very expressive across that range. By the same token, she's very obviously influenced by the band Television (and their predecessors) in her guitar playing, but not without some distinctive wrinkles of her own on her instrument. From "Verbalworld" on, the listener may be hooked by the Byrds-like lyricism on that track to the punchier, more in-your-face textures and timbres on "Meticulous Man," the hauntingly beautiful, melodic "I'll Wait Here," and the folk-rock of "Beyond the Bloodline." Two compositions, "Does It Have to Be Christmas This Year" and "I'll Wait Here," may make you pause -- based on their lyrical content -- the former is a wonderfully vivid and moving paean to loss and love, while the latter expresses angst within two overlapping time frames. And then there's "Evelyn," a beautifully textured slow ballad with a soaring vocal and a guitar part that sounds like Roger McGuinn in his prime, though one has to assume that Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were more direct influences on Farber's playing and perceptions. There's lots of good music here, played by every kind of unit, from the stripped-down duo of Farber and Chris Young to a quintet encompassing keyboardist Andy Burton (on a Mellotron, no less, for one song) and, variously, violinist Deni Bonet and hornist Ted Petroski, and they're all good; but the album's best moment among a lot of really good ones comes at its end. "Straight Up and Steady" is the work of the core trio of Farber, bassist Peter Stuart, and drummer Ira Elliot, who all prove that less is indeed sometimes more, with Farber's guitar crunching away instead of chiming. It's a great song to end on and it fulfills one special maxim that every album should try to adhere to: always leave them wanting more.

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