The ominous grooves that Shivaree creates for its tales of treachery, frustrated sexuality and emotional defeat sound like the music escaping a carny sideshow tent after midnight. Eerie hints of tango, girl-group R&B, spaghetti Western guitar and musical saw all drift through the music's disjointed landscapes, weaving a spell that leaves one pleasantly tipsy. Front woman and songwriter Ambrosia Parsley's fragile vocals hint of Billie Holiday and Gillian Welch, making her an understated chanteuse who's able to deliver cryptic lines like "Your tears are such a treasure, your tears are a lie," and set them abuzz with significance, even as they leave you scratching your head. Duke McVinne's guitar and Danny McGough's keyboard textures are as minimal and moody as Parsley's whispered vocals, but despite the low volume, this album delivers an emotional knockout punch. -- j. poet

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