Monica Queen and Johnny Smillie were once members of Thrum
, a critically lauded indie act influenced by such Americana icons as Patsy Cline
, Neil Young
and The Flying Burrito Brothers
. And, with the aptly titled Ten Sorrowful Mysteries
, Queen continues to follow Cline in her intuitive contemplation of tragic lives and relationships.
In a sweet, sometimes cracked and wavering voice, pitched somewhere between the Innocence Mission's Karen Peris and the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler, she opens "Tear Behind My Smile" with a delicate and moving "Before you broke my heart", and closes the Gram Parsons-like "Broken Wing" with a quietly wracked "Honey, I know you are suffering". It's genuinely beautiful stuff, made all the more resonant by a backing that blends softly swirling electronics with tastefully distorted guitars, birdsong and sampled whistles.
The best is left to last when, in "Where Do You Sleep", Queen's voice is swept over by a thrilling tide of celestial voices. Again, this is a truly beautiful album, equal to anything produced by Queen's former working partners Belle and Sebastian. It really should make Monica Queen an indie darling once again. --Dominic Wills