A Fine Frenzy

A Bomb in a Birdcage

It’s possible that recording artist Alison Sudol might easily slip through the cracks unrecognized beyond the city limits of Los Angeles. Her piano-led pop-rock group, A Fine Frenzy, hardly distinguishes itself, content to work well within a comfortable motif set forth by songstresses such as Sarah McLachlan and Regina Spektor. On Bomb in a Birdcage, slick studio musicianship frames a few pedestrian turns-of-phrase among otherwise poignant lyrics written mainly from the second-person perspective: “You came with the season/ as the first swallow sang/ A brown-headed stranger with a five-letter name” (from “Bird of the Summer”). The pervasive atmosphere of AFF’s latest is that of the collegiate love letter: at once sentimental, imagery-laden and—one suspects at times—not yet quite savvy to the reality of heartbreak. Sudol’s vocals are heavily produced throughout with layers of overdubs and effects set against echoing guitar hooks that call to mind Coldplay (as on “World Without”). To the songwriter’s credit these 11 tracks cover a wide range of sounds and styles, but even on tunes like “Electric Twist”—on which experimental feline-sounding vocal lifts (à la Spektor) make their sole appearance—Sudol takes few creative risks.