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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ellen Starski

The Days When Peonies Prayed for the Ants

Review by Gary Hill

Ellen Starski has produced an exceptional disc. This one might actual make its way into my "best of 2018" list. The sound of this varies from track to track running from folk to country and much more. There are moments when it calls to mind people like Kate Bush and Tori Amos, but other moments when Mazzy Star gets a reference. It's actually easier to point out the songs that aren't highlights than the ones that are. That's how strong this is. I even love the little touch that there technically is and isn't a title track. It's Schrödinger's title track. If you go by the track listings, you'll miss it (because it doesn't exist), but if you let the disc play, the short artistic piece shows up after about half a minute of silence. All in alll, this disc is a real winner.

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Track by Track Review
Ode to Nanny and Cookie
This comes in with a short acapella bit. Some acoustic guitar rises up to join as the track works forward in an evocative, rather dramatic way. There is a lot of folk music built into this piece. The strings add a lot to the arrangement further down the road.
Honey I'm Not Him
A bit more energized and classic in nature, this has some of country in the mix. As tasty as the opener was, this is stronger. Starski's voice stands taller and the musical textures are a bit more dangerous. The cut is so timeless in terms of its musical vibe. While it starts mellower it gradually starts to rock a bit as it evolves.
Missing You
This cut also starts mellower and works its way toward a more built up and powerful arrangement. It has some hints of folk music, but really is more of a rock styled number. I can make out some hints of Tori Amos and Kate Bush on this piece. The number has a lot of retro stylings and is just so strong.
Slip of Paper
Piano serves as the backdrop on this cut. Again I'm reminded just a little of Tori Amos. This is much mellower than the last couple songs. It's no less effective, though. It is a particularly evocative piece.
Separated by Time
There is a lot of country built into this. It's another standout number, but there are so many of those here that it almost seems silly to point it out. A rather bluesy kind of vibe permeates this number. It's such a classy tune.
Taken by the Breeze
Folk music is at the heart of this number in a lot of ways. The horns add a bit of a Latin vibe to it. While I still like this one, it's not on the same level as the last few songs. That said it does provide some more variety, too. There is some particularly intricate instrumental work on the mellower closing movement of the piece.
Miss You Mary
Another set in a more or less folk approach, this is a stronger cut than the last one. The violin brings a bit of a country vibe to it. Some Spanish guitar adds more magic. This song is quite an evocative one.
Daughter of the Sea
There is some old school Americana built into this. There is almost a dream-pop kind of thing here. I feel some of the moodiness of Mazzy Star without the distortion. This has a real classic sound to it overall, though. It's a potent piece of music that really shines.
Fairweather Friends
Folk, country and more merge on this mellow tune. While this is a pretty song, its not one of the highlights.
Chasin' the Sun
A bouncy old time sound is the basis of this cut. It feels playful. It's like a warm sunny day with nothing to do all rolled up into a song. This is just fun.
Hidden Track
After about thirty seconds of silence, we get a weird little Celtic inspired piece. The vocals are a poetry recitation. This is actually the title track of the album. It's odd, but also very cool and artsy.
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