The 2010 Lakeshore Records release Volume 2 is a renamed reissue of Melissa Dougherty's second album, Tunes from a Room, originally released in 2004. Dougherty's self-titled 2000 debut album (which Lakeshore also reissued under the title Volume 1) was an idiosyncratic effort in which the singer/songwriter, accompanying herself on acoustic or electric guitar, seemingly improvised generally non-rhyming lyrics and free-form melodies in a recitative, cantorial style. It was unusual, to say the least, but, by the evidence of Tunes from a Room, Dougherty seems to have felt that the only thing wrong with it was that it was too conventional. She certainly doesn't make that mistake this time, and she signals her expanding ambition immediately on the opening track, "D," which begins with what sounds like someone stomping around on a warehouse floor in heavy boots. Then there is a cough, and spacy instrumental music made up of odd tape loops, some of them playing backwards, accompanies a strummed guitar. As of the second track, "I.C.M.," Dougherty is back to singing in her semi-improvised manner, but the sound effects continue, with the vocals multi-tracked and echoed. By the title Tunes from a Room, she seems to imply that this is not "tracks from a studio," and that is the case; the recording is simultaneously complicated, with overdubs and odd mixing, and primitive, with a distinctly lo-fi sound. Often, Dougherty de-emphasizes her vocals in favor of the arrangements, even though the tracks often sound like demos. By the final two selections, "How It Feels to Be Lost in Something" and "Focus Don't Fade Just Try to Dissolve," she is creating instrumental sound collages. On the Melissa Dougherty album (aka Volume 1), Dougherty challenged her listeners; on Tunes from a Room (aka Volume 2), an already unusual artist has upped the ante.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann