Clare & the Reasons

The Movie

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Bossa nova legend Astrud Gilberto. Easy listening nymphet Claudine Longet. Alison Statton of Young Marble Giants. Clare Grogan of Altered Images. Alison Shaw of Cranes. Nina Persson of the Cardigans. Alt-country singer Amy Allison. And now, add to this pantheon of the great baby-voiced female singers of pop music history Clare Muldaur Manchon. Muldaur Manchon, the daughter of folk-blues legend Geoff Muldaur, has a gloriously wispy, lighter-than-air timbre, but she's also a skilled, nuanced interpreter of her own jazz-influenced melodies. Her voice is the centerpiece of the debut album by Clare & the Reasons, and rightfully so: it's a fairly outstanding instrument. But Muldaur Manchon's vocals are expertly supported by the Reasons, a chamber pop quintet led by her husband and writing partner, keyboardist Olivier Manchon. The appropriately cinematic arrangements of the richly textured The Movie, featuring strings, horns, and a helping hand by the old master of the style, Van Dyke Parks, are tremendous, echoing everything from Pet Sounds to Nick Drake's Bryter Layter to several generations' worth of soundtrack masters, including Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, and Nelson Riddle. These arrangements support 11 good to great songs, mostly minor-key ballads with lovelorn lyrics like the wistful longing of "Alphabet City" and "Love Can Be a Crime." But the absolute masterpiece is the final track, "Pluton," a loving re-creation of space-age exotica complete with UFO-style pedal steel and theremin sounds trailing through shimmering pizzicato strings, married to Muldaur Manchon's wry lyrics about Pluto's recent demotion from planetary status. It's a perfect ending to one of the most assured and enjoyable debuts of 2007.

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