The good folks at the Anti label sure know how to pick 'em. But while labelmate and fellow flame-haired vixen Neko Case gets all the attention from horndog rock writers the world over ("She can sing and I'd do 'er!"), the enigmatic, sometimes disturbingly intense Jolie Holland threatens to slip under the radar. Sonically, the new Springtime Can Kill You represents a huge progression from 2004's Escondida: Whereas the previous record was a fairly standard stripped-down folk-country affair, this one is fuller and more varied, in both its arrangements and production values. Which doesn't make it a commercial record, precisely. For instance, the understated, perfectly calibrated duets between Holland's exquisite whistling and Ara Anderson's "baritone horn" during the instrumental breaks on the title track sound equally alien and natural, mellifluous but still unsettling. The same can be said for much of the disc's remainder. Holland has been criticized for overemphasizing her Texas accent, but throughout Springtime, the twang in her voice, exaggerated or not, acts almost as a dowser, the bent string that allows her to reach some heartbreakingly blue notes on pointed, eerie lyrics along the lines of "Nobody likes a spook/Or so I've deduced/But I have loved some ghosts in my time." As much jazz diva as honky-tonk harlot, and emphatically not quite either, Jolie Holland is busy alchemizing her own seamless, highly personalized cosmic American music.
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