A schizophrenic album and all the better for it, Danielle Howle shifts from slightly psychedelic folk to upbeat country, a harder-edged, almost punk guitar rock, and even closes with a lounge tune on this consistently bracing disc. It doesn't all work, but the sequencing is so well executed that the songs flow better than you'd expect. Hints of Revolver-era Beatles sneak in on "Sneaky A.M.," but there is more than a little Indigo Girls in Howle's eclectic approach. It's not surprising, then, that she has retuned to record for Amy Ray's Daemon imprint once again after releases on Kill Rock Stars and other indies. Remarkably, Howle's vocals fit whatever music she throws at listeners, but work best on the mid-tempo ballads like the nifty "Soft White China Patterns," where her husky voice stays sexy and slinky no matter what she's singing about. Excellently produced, the album sounds full and muscular without a hint of slickness or commerciality, even on the quieter tracks. Similar to her boss, Ray, Howle is just as convincing on the tough, edgy rockers like the chunky "Camaro Power" as she is on the light country/folk/gospel of "Let the Angels Commit" which follows it and the R&B-laced "Conversation." At almost an hour and 16 songs, a few tracks that weaken the effect could have been pruned since some just aren't as melodically entrancing as the rest. But Howle remains committed even on the lesser tunes, most of which close the recording. "Down" in particular is a twisting riff rocker that, while showing off the Tantrums' chops as they shift from punk to metal and back, comes off as strained and stiff. The closing juxtaposition of that next to the jazzy, smarmy "Dark Like the Coat" is unnecessarily jarring, as if to point out how eclectic she can be. Regardless, this is a winning album with lots of memorable songs sung and played with tough sincerity, proving Danielle Howle is a major talent capable of performing in a variety of styles, all of which she excels at.
by Hal Horowitz