It doesn't take long for "La Verite," the opening track on Michelle Blades' new record, Mariana, to assert itself as new territory for the singer/songwriter. With its swelling strings (courtesy of violinist Tobie Milford), galloping drums, sprightly keyboards (both played by members of Blades' post-punk outfit North Dakota), the song marks a peak in Blades' young career, at once grander, bigger, and more expressive than anything else in her already remarkable catalog. Comparisons to Regina Spektor or Joanna Newsom probably aren't going anywhere. Elsewhere on the album, like the title track and "Waltz for the Sea," Blades affirms herself as a singular artist, one whose command of melody, folk idioms, and charisma is as firmly demonstrated as any of the "recommended if you like" suggestions.
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