Flora Reed

Settle Down

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Northampton, Massachusetts, singer/songwriter Flora Reed may have once been a diehard folkie with a jones for Dar Williams, but her debut stretches beyond that idiom in a number of fine ways. Settle Down, however, may be most accurately described as indie folk-pop for those who need the certitude of a category. And in truth, where the album succeeds most is on the less-overtly folk tracks. Reed has a breathlessly sincere yet dreamy set of pipes, and a muse that succeeds most when fleshed out with a variety of instrumentation, especially percussion. The best track here, "Wake Up Laughing," may only feature the stripped-down atmosphere of stark electric guitar and sparse percussion, but pitted against Reed's fine melodic sense and her ability to construct dynamics within this basic groove, it becomes a wonderfully emotive slab of indie rock. She also succeeds on tracks such as "Happiness Is," a more upbeat tune with a euphoric, vaguely alt-country chorus and tinges of pedal steel, and "Flowers at My Feet," which features a trippy, pulsing synth line a la mid-'60s Beatles. The songs here that merely depend upon vocals and acoustic fingerpicking are fine, but long after the CD has ended, it's the fleshed out pop/rock tracks that make the strongest impression. Let's hope that Reed keeps moving away from the folkie environ of the coffee house and deeper into the indie rock sphere. If she does, "Wake Up Laughing" is testimony enough that she's a talent to watch. The album also features a take on Björk's "Joga" which reveals the source of some of Reed's certain vocal mannerisms. Dave Chalfant of the Nields produces.

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