Magnolia Memoir – The Perfect Crime (2012)

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Magnolia Memoir has been described, and beautifully so, as Fiona Apple meets the Killers with a dash of the Clash — and that’s a good start. What’s not delineated there is the torch-song vulnerability, fragile and yet hopeful, that propels much of the work on The Perfect Crime.

It’s then that this quintet begins to separate itself from an ever-burgeoning series of art-pop bands emerging out of Los Angeles’ folk-pop club scene these days.

You expect a bit of outsized diva-ism from singer Mela Lee (and you get it), even sleek post-jazz hooks from keyboardist and bandleader Alexander Burke (ditto). But not the rumbling undercurrent of unglamorous junkie fragility of “Good Girl” — so similar, in a way, to Billie Holiday, but far more modern. And not the thunderingly soulful kick of their take on the White Stripes’ “My Doorbell.” And certainly not the coy mid-century coo of “I Keep Falling.”

They play it straight. No winks, no nudges. In so doing, The Perfect Crime, due on February 28 from Peak/eOne, will only serve to bolster a reputation already in steep ascent.

For all of its mixing and matching of styles, and all of the joy and magic in that musical elixir, what continually stands out is the group’s clearly heart-felt, bone-deep optimism. Shadows gather, but Magnolia Memoir is always searching for that first flicker of the dawn.

There’s perhaps no better example than “Broken Cup (Revolution Remix),” a brilliant reworking — part gypsy-fiddle romance, part foot-stamping punk attitude — of what was at first simply a gorgeously romantic cut from the band’s independently released debut. The song swoons with a new-found power on The Perfect Crime, sounding wiser but yet still completely ready to give into the emotion of the moment. This band just keeps getting better.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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