Stand With the Stillness of the Day is the Constellation debut of Montreal's memorably-named Elizabeth Anka Vajagic. Don't be bamboozled by its seven-song track listing, as Stillness is no EP. It could never be -- there's too much emotional weight here. Songs linger and stretch into the five-, six-, and seven-minute mark as Vajagic wails over brooding cello (courtesy of A Silver Mt. Zion's Beckie Foon), stark guitar, stabs of piano, and subtly effective percussion. Unlike the searching yet opaque confessionals of Cat Power, Vajagic is startlingly forward, like an angry widow berating God's decision-making process. "Smashed your head/And you killed yourself," she utters over "Where You Wonder"'s velvety dirge. "We all went to bed with the scene in our heads." The song gradually deconstructs itself, the percussion and guitars ambling through an improvisational section before roaring back in the throes of thick-handed pounding and scraggly, frayed solos. This territory of the soul has been traversed before, inside PJ Harvey's "Man Size Sextet" or the smoky tendrils of Nick Cave's work. But Vajagic acknowledges this and then dismisses it, relying on her powerfully brazen vocals to cordon off her own couch in the psychosis absinthe bar. She cracks the whip and her band follows. It rises and falls with her on "Iceland"; it senses her comparatively lighter mood for "And the Sky Lay Still," and lets a lone guitar trace the skeleton of a torch song. Of course, this is just a feint. "I had a dream of you," Vajagic whispers, and suddenly the shadows have come to life as six-string torturers, peeling off scrawls of feedback and equally evocative acoustic stutters. Stand With the Stillness of the Day ends with tear stains and "dried up hearts," a mournful nylon-string guitar Vajagic's only accompaniment; her only friend. "Sleep With Dried Up Tears" might be the best moment on the album, since it's a masterful blend of slow-burn country & western balladry, dramatic Gothic ache, and faintly European defeatism, the last of which most of Vajagic's work suggests. Is she a heroine fated to die, or a coolly confident femme fatale with a knife inside her cloak?
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus