Cutthroat Standards & Black Pop
L.A.-based singer-songwriter and former Beck bassist Abby Travis sounds like Dusty Springfield with more theatrical phrasing; she’s cited Berlin cabaret chanteuse Lotte Lenya, along with Lenya’s musical patrons Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, as major influences. Hey, she even lurches into German on “Have I Got a Deal for You.” But the music on this sometimes-compelling 12-song disc is connected more closely to artistic overreachers à la Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, along with contemporary analogues such as Jon Brion. This is flowery, artsy chamber pop, good and bad—when she’s good, Travis sounds like she’d have been a big deal on Elektra Records’ late-’60s roster. On the flipside, she ventures into Freddie Mercury territory a bit too often, as do the ambitious production settings that frame these songs—think “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Nevertheless, here’s an artist who’s got the goods.