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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 14 June 2014
This is the first album of original material from Natalie Merchant in some time. Her last album was a glorious collection of children's themed songs 'Leave Your Sleep' with lyrical contributions from various poets that album displayed more humour than I had found on other albums by Natalie and also was perhaps slightly more musically diverse. This album is a less playful affair but musically it retains the previous albums diversity with forays into styles such as soul, I particularly enjoyed 'Lulu' and 'The Seven Deadly Sins'. This is an album that is beautifully played and sung if a little earnest and if you are just exploring the work of Natalie Merchant I would suggest you start with the above mentioned 'Leave Your Sleep' or the album by her former band the 10,000 Maniacs 'In My Tribe' and if you like those then this album and another solo album 'Tigerlilly' should be your next step.
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This is a fantastic album, I think. I was bowled over by it when I first heard it and it has just got better on repeated hearing.

Although I've been aware of Natalie Merchant in a vague sort of way for a long time, this is the first album of hers that I have heard properly. It won't be the last: it features extraordinary songwriting, excellent singing and very good arrangements and production. You can get a sense of the album's tone from the artwork, featuring Merchant in a bleak, dirty concrete cell in varying degrees of thoughtfulness or despair. The music and lyrics aren't unremittingly miserable, but it's not one to get you in the mood for a fun night out, that's for sure. However, it has it redemptive moments and the music and performances are so compelling that it never becomes depressing.

I find it hard to give a real flavour of this album. Natalie Merchant is very much her own woman, but I get echoes of greats like Tracy Chapman, Patty Griffin and others. The music is varied, tuneful, often mournful and always very musically rewarding. Her lyrics are remarkable - allusive and suggestive rather than direct much of the time, and extraordinarily evocative of the daily struggle and the human condition as a result. This is fine, intelligent songwriting by someone who has honed her craft over many, many years and found her true individual voice.

I would suggest listening to some samples here (available on the mp3 page). If you like the sound of them, don't hesitate. This is a very fine piece of work with genuine depth and which is a pleasure to listen to. This will certainly be one of my stand-out albums of this year and it will last for a very long time, I think. Very, very warmly recommended.
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on 7 May 2014
Probably not.....but I am struggling to find a flaw here. This is just beautiful, and so moving (without all the over emoting of many mainstream artists). It also improves on every hearing, pulling you into the listening experience. Excellent production and arrangements to (some great string accompaniments)....For sure it's mood is overall melancholy, but it doesn't attempt to drag you into the pits. It's a cliché perhaps, but everything seems so right, one might say perfect ? I do have all her other solo albums so admit am a fan, but I think this one is her best yet, and probably it feels like the one she was destined to make. My album of the year so far, (and I have around 50 other purchases across all genres I am comparing with).
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on 15 May 2014
This is a welcome return to original composition from Natalie Merchant whose last album 2010's "Leave Your Sleep" comprised of children's poems set to music was an admirably ambitious experiment which ultimately failed collapsing under the weight of its own ambition. Perhaps Merchant's realisation of this prompted her to re-start composing original material? Whatever the reason the outcome is extraordinary with Merchant's velvety, rich contralto voice never sounding better and is brilliant suited to these (mostly) slow paced, lush [strings are prominent with lashings of cello] songs of heartbreak and experience.

Pop this is not and in some ways some of the themes and moods mirror those of Goldrapp's recent "Tales Of Us" (though Merchant's work exhibits a gravity that Goldfrapp can only dream of and I speak as a great admirer "Tales Of Us"). Stand outs are difficult to pick since it is all excellent, but I do particularly like the (slightly) sparer tracks such as "Seven Deadly Sins" and "Texas" and the climatic closer "The End" where Merchant laments over a luscious orchestral accompaniment [bringing to mind the best tracks on "Leave Your Sleep"]. Also worth mentioning is Merchant belting it out like the good old 10,000 Maniacs days on the gospel-tinged "Go Down Moses" though I could have done without the slightly superfluous backing singer which kind of overeggs the pudding somewhat - still great to hear Merchant cutting loose again even if its only one track.

All said and done a gem and a very welcome return to form from an exceptional singer and artist.
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on 14 July 2014
My favourite album in the past few years. I saw Natalie performing the song "Texas" on Jools Holland (in May 2014), and was completely mesmerized. The depth of her voice and song writing is something I have never experienced before. The choice of the musicians round up the moving experience ... while my CD has not left the stereo since May, I purchased so far 4 more CDs as gifts to friends, since I felt the music needed, needed to be shared.
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on 6 January 2015
We heard Natalie singing "Texas" live on 'Later with Jules Holland' and pre-ordered the CD there and then. It certainly did not disappoint. The rest of the songs are to the same high standard. A great voice and well written songs.
This remains one of the most played CD's in our house and we have also bought it for friends and family.
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on 1 May 2015
Arrived quickly. Lovely album. She has such a haunting voice. Texas is my favourite track but the more I listen the more I am liking the other tracks. This artist is very definitely a long way from one dimensional. She is unique and interesting. I will be buying more of her work.
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on 12 September 2015
A thing of mature beauty; gorgeous and wise. I first heard this bored on a plane six months ago and it blew me away. Giving Up Everything is one of the best lyrics I have ever heard, Lulu - about Louise Brooks - is accessible and poignant and the opener, Ladybird, is simply sublime. Your life will be better with this album.
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on 28 July 2016
I have all of Natalie Merchants albums, and like some more than others, but this latest offering lacks energy and feel. One of the most drab and unimaginative albums I've ever bought. A purchase I regret.
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on 7 May 2014
I first got into Natalie Merchant's music when I heard the very unrepresentative Henry Darger on a Radio 4 feature, so went from there to 10,000 maniacs, the famous Inaugural version of Candy Everybody Wants, and the solo work. this is a beautiful album with Natalie in good voice. As ever the lyrics are a little opaque at times and some of the edginess of earlier work seems to have given way to more than a touch of world weariness, but she is singing of issues of loss and relationship breakdown that will apply to many of her long term fans. Can see this being a long term favourite.
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