This is easily EIB's best and most accomplished release, and an interesting signpost to their future sound(s). Lizzie's choir-educated vocals are absolutely amazing (the beauty and levity of her voice can occasionally make me cry, I must shamefacedly admit), with constant touring obviously having had a disciplinary effect on her voice. The musicianship is uniformly excellent too, with an eclectic mix of punk-and-other sounds from acoustic to electric to wall-of-sound(check) to sea shanty(!) to outdoor sounds to spoken Italian (for some reson).
However, it has to be said, that this is a somewhat depressing album. A stark, autumnal, melancholic mood permeates the songs about life-stormtossed existential angst, psychological paralysis, dead friends, self-examination, self-hatred, and predatory women. The cover and insert, with pictures of tombstones, ruined buildings and the band gathered round a dead member, all add somewhat to the overall dense, inwardly-downward-looking vibe.
John Pierson's complex, compact, questioning lyrical wordwork (the novelist/playwright in him coming through) sometimes sound very weighty and leaden coming from somebody so young and fresh-sounding as Lizzie. However, if poetry and earthbound gravity is the zeitgeist you want to hear echoed, you're in the right place. All in all this is a superb, intriguing, eccentric album, and definitely one of the year's most interesting.
PS: The cover of One Fine Day, the old 60s shoobydoobydoobydoobydoobydoowopwop Carole King song and the lightest spot on the album, is absolutely superb, one of the best covers I have ever heard, and I have not been able to stop listening to it. Let Lizzie do a happier song or two more next time, John. You (and the audience) won't be disappointed.