Belinda Bruce and the Tawny Stars
The Good Life (Independent)
Belinda Bruce's 2004 debut, Dream Yourself Awake, was a wispy, low-key introduction, full of rootsy lullabies and imbued with a dusky ambiance. The Good Life, her follow-up, is a tougher, more confident album, thanks in part to a band that includes two of the city's finer multi-instrumentalists-Jane Gowan and Jon Wood-and tracks featuring pop hooks rather than basement-apartment simplicity. That's certainly true of "Citysong", a track that begins with honking cars, takes a trip down Main, twirls around a Legion dance floor, and ends with Gowan's spirited trumpet. Wood's pedal steel adds countrified pain to the rootsy "Rust", a sepia-toned waltz also backed by Gowan's accordion. The rhythm section of bassist Ryen Froggatt and drummer Matt Brain grounds "Careful What You Wish For" and "Heaven Knows", while the band spins "Blackout" into an atmospheric campfire jam. "Slide", with the album's catchiest chorus, is the truest showcase for Bruce's pop side and perhaps the furthest in style from anything on her debut. The Good Life could be a transitional album, or simply a clear indication of where the singer's heading. In either case, it's as yearning, contradictory, and satisfying as the title suggests.