Beth Jeans Houghton / Beth Jeans Houghton & the Hooves of Destiny

Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose

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With Goldfrapp, Polly Scattergood, and Beth Jeans Houghton on its roster, Mute has a particularly good ear for female artists with silvery voices and unconventional songwriting. While Houghton's debut Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose has just as much whimsy as the title suggests, it's not all spun-sugar fantasies (though there are plenty of those). Her voice has a richness and maturity that anchor her flights of fancy, while the carnival-chamber-folk that surrounds it adds freshness and fun. Some of the album's best songs have been around for years in the form of MySpace demos, and the fact that they sound more or less the same, only bigger and brighter, is a testament to how singular and fully realized Houghton's vision is. "Sweet Tooth Bird" opens Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose with a sugar rush of cooing harmonies, crowing trumpets, and merry-go-round melodies that sound so massive it's hard to believe the song is just over two minutes long. Previous single "Dodecahedron" sounds like a lullaby for giants, while the lovely "Nightswimmer" reveals the dark side of Houghton's fairytale world as she hopes that her lover will go out with the tide over prickly chamber pop. While some listeners might be frustrated with the sudden detours these songs take ("Humble Digs" begins as aptly homey folk before it falls down a spooky rabbit hole and gets carried away by a parade), they're more likely to be charmed by the album's gorgeous arrangements and instrumentation, which, coupled with Houghton's classically trained voice, add to the feeling that Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose is an otherworldly transmission. "Lilliputt"'s galloping tale of a free spirit balancing independence and love is a perfect example of Houghton's fondness for grand gestures, but she and the Hooves of Destiny pull off more intimate moments such as the Joni Mitchell-esque "Barely Skinny Bone Tree," just as well, reaffirming that she needs little more than her voice and melodies to captivate. Indeed, Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose is as restrained in its own way as it is vibrant; just over 30 minutes long, it shows that Houghton knows how to leave listeners wanting more.

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