Free and legal MP3 from Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls’ singer goes solo, produced by Ben Folds)

“Astronaut” – Amanda Palmer

The smoky alto is back, likewise the melodramatic delivery and foreboding lyrics, but Amanda Palmer arrives this time without the Dresden Dolls, the self-proclaimed “Brechtian punk cabaret” duo of which she is half. The Dolls have a compelling sound, to be sure, but perhaps it was time to see what Palmer could do when freed of the band’s intriguing but restricted soundscape–an idea that so delighted Dresden Dolls’ fan Ben Folds that he actively sought the job of being Palmer’s producer for her solo debut.

And so the Foldsian piano pounding (by Palmer) that opens this, the album’s lead track, seems no accident, but neither does the Palmerian left turn the song takes after 20 seconds of it—with the strings still echoing off the soundboard, we dive into 40 seconds of brooding quiet, which announces that Palmer has not left her bravado in her “punk cabaret” kit bag. We lean in, we wonder exactly what she’s talking about (“Is it enough to have some love/Small enough to slip inside a book”), we get closer still and then bam, we get whacked on the head a second time, when the volume and beat return, at 1:02. “I am still not getting what I want,” she sings, a thematically charged line in Palmer’s oeuvre if ever there was one, as the song leaps back to life and soon picks up an unexpectedly welcoming bounce. When Palmer belts, her voice has this commanding way of sounding off-key and on the right note at the same time. She is in fact a very precise singer and writer; whether or not I get their meaning, her words are a rhythmic pleasure, scanning with a finesse not typically found in indie rock. And she even effects a musical climax based largely on the metric foot she employs, in the bridge that starts at 2:53, which sticks with a rat-a-tat trochaic meter (ONE-two, ONE-two, ONE-two etc.) until we are pretty much beaten into submission. It’s both an impressive display of lyrical discipline and a way of adding a driving anguish to the song below the level of consciousness.

The CD Who Killed Amanda Palmer was released earlier this fall on Roadrunner Records.

3 thoughts on “Free and legal MP3 from Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls’ singer goes solo, produced by Ben Folds)”

  1. Huh, when I reviewed the album in August, Amanda’s manager gave me permission to post an mp3 (apparently with Amanda’s blessing), but her record label demanded I remove it after the review was published. I guess things have changed since the Rebellyon. 🙂

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  2. Well, remember, this is not me posting the MP3, it’s me linking to her rather smartly developed MP3 page. Maybe that makes a difference to them, for whatever reason. As for the belly thing, can you believe that? I couldn’t (and didn’t really want to) use valuable word space on the matter, but Pitchfork has a fine summary of the pitiful situation. Lost in the turmoil is one unanswered question: what if she did “look fat”? It’s like SFW. Shouldn’t it be?

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  3. What’s so bizarre about the whole ridiculous debate is that the same label released the Dolls albums, so they are obviously familiar with her and her fanbase. So they have to know that even if she did look fat in the video (which she most certainly does not), neither she nor we her fans would care. Oh well, even bad publicity is publicity, so perhaps this debacle will help her career. 🙂

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