Tasmin Archer

Shipbuilding

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Now here's an interesting move: British soul-pop singer Tasmin Archer followed up her debut album with this eight-track EP, which consists of live versions of three songs from her album, an alternate version of another, and four Elvis Costello covers. The result is revelatory in a couple of ways. First of all, Elvis Costello fans, upon hearing Archer's silky but muscular renditions of "Shipbuilding," "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," "New Amsterdam," and the obscure "All Grown Up" may be surprised at how much easier it is to listen to someone other than Costello -- a fine singer with a distinctly limited voice -- sing them. Second of all, Archer fans will likely find that her originals pale somewhat in comparison to Costello's, both in lyrical and melodic terms. Her "When It Comes Down to It" is a sweet-natured tribute to her mother that never quite achieves melodic focus, and Archer has difficulty singing it in tune. "Steel Town" is similarly flawed. But none of the originals are bad; they're all fair to good, and the Costello covers are very powerful. Recommended.

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