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The Hearth and The Hive

£10.00

Initial impressions: /nice/ packaging - no jewel case, just a nice gatefold card (I'm assuming it's recycled, since... heck, why would it NOT be?) sleeve with full colour inside and out, and a lyric booklet as well. Minor nitpick that the inside credits are a tad hard to read, but the cover (in the style of a cross-stitch sampler) looks fantastic.

As for the album? Very clean and forward production - Talis' voice is clear, the guitar and bouzouki do their job beautifully (but let's face it, they're not the meat of what you're listening to this album for!), the other instruments (bass, oboe, bassoon, 'cello, whistle, recorder, squeezebox (synth?)) are dotted through the tracks to add a sweetening and leavening of tone colour and melody where needed. Sounds great, not fatiguing to listen to.

What you /are/ listening to this for, let's face it, are the lyrics (which incidentally can be found at http://www.talis.net/songs.htm). But... having said that... the arrangements are there to set off the lyrics. And they do it damn well.

Kitchen Heroes

In which Talis sets her stall out. Sounds of battle and the thunder of hooves twist into a lyrical oboe line, in much the same way that Talis turns the heroes of the battle into the unsung heroes of the aftermath. This is the title track (in my favourite way, that of pulling a lyric out of a song to use as the title!), setting out the challenge: what basic survival tasks /do/ you know how to do when there's no-one else around to do it?

Cassandra

Gorgeous opening fingerpicked guitar line, before subtle bass and drums kick in. Catchy and yet chilling with great use of sound effects - my one pickiness? I'd have recorded the spoken bits with the effects already playing and LOUD: Talis' voice doesn't sound like she's struggling over the fall of 'Troy'. Oh, and the Morse code is cool!

Jonathan's Coffeehouse

Cheery, almost whimsical, and I love the squeezebox! Lyrical hints of a mix of Erica Neely's "Bardic Corps" and Little Johnny England's "Welcome To The Sparrow Club", with some great whistle playing. Not sure about the sound effect at the end.

Time and Tide

A simple (if such things ever exist) love story. Gorgeous. There was once a girl...

When I Was A Mermaid

Cello and bassoon open this one - haunting and eerie. In fact, they provide the sole backing all the way through. It could be a traditional folk song: love the arrangement.

Ladybird Year

Follows on out of the previous track with a bassoon line that starts off in the same key before you realise it's shifted to the major. Guitar, bass and subtle drums and percussion, love the way it builds and the interlocking backing vocals.

In a way, though, the last couple of tracks have been kind of a (very pleasant) interlude. From here on in, pay attention, damnit: it matters. Here comes the real meat.

Jam Tomorrow

Or the jam, perhaps. A look (to a bouncy, almost mischevious backing) at the evils of futures trading, and the onset of peak oil

My Lady Of The Underpass

Wow. Not.. specifically... about the same things as most of the rest of the album. But it fits so perfectly. And the 'cello is to die for.

Vitruvian Man

NOW I know why there was sawdust all over the studio floor :D More bouncy uptempo piano mischief with a great drum and wacky percussion track, and another reminder of the things we'd do well to remember how to do.

Wolf At Your Door

Love the growl in Talis' voice on this one: the same bouncy swing combo that's all over Vitruvian Man, and a delightfully schizophrenic lyric (not to mention a brief guest appearance). Just how close /is/ that wolf?

World's End

Very close, in this song. Chillingly, icily, beautiful, from the brittle guitar tone to the bare, wintery backing vocals.

Blackthorn Winter

Another of Talis' wonderfully anonymous yet fleshed-out characters, and a gorgeous guitar playout into the promise of spring.

Buy it. You know you want to.
Date Added: 02/25/2010 by Mike Whitaker
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