Of love and death
The Living and the Dead (Anti)
This talented singer-songwriter moves away from the jazz-tinged pop of her previous work with an equally beguiling set of rock-inflected country and folk. Holland opens "The Future" singing, "Everything around here makes me sad," and that's the prevailing mood of the 10-song disc as Holland sings beautiful tunes full of regret and doubt. Don't misunderstand: This is not a pity party. Rather, it is about the hard truths of life and relationships. Choices are questioned, lives dissolve into pained quests for survival, and love is insanely complicated. Sound familiar? "Corrido Por Buddy" is about a former friend who descends into the life of a junkie and the narrator wonders if her love could have changed his path. "Palmyra" looks at the failure to commit, and Holland sighs "how absurd, how absurd" at her choices. The music - Holland co-produced the disc - is stripped to its essence but is often upbeat and graceful with cameos by guitarists M. Ward and Marc Ribot. As usual, Holland's vocals are elastic and quirky, but she's always serving the songs' sentiments. It closes with a giggling cover of "Enjoy Yourself," and it's either an ironic comment or an affirmation of life. [Ken Capobianco]
Jolie Holland plays at the Museum of Fine Arts on Nov. 1.