Jill Tracy – Diabolical Streak (11/01/2010)

Like something from a Tim Burton movie–only good.

And no, I will not expand on that statement.

Modern (or Neo, for those people) Cabaret is not new–and was still fairly strong when Jill released her debut Quintessentially Unreal, which was just a woman and her piano singing dark dripping diatribes with some jazzy piano.  It was upon the release of this album that she gained her cult following, and a lot of recognition around the board for her brand of dark Cabaret Jazz, with lush instruments and tones as well as sly,  macabre lyrics that bordered on black humor.  Though her debut release was a wonderful, hazy foray into the dark Cabaret world, Diabolical Streak really began to show her ability to weave smoothly sinister compositions around her Piano playing and singing.   Full of hooks and sultry singing,  it’s a darkly whimsical album.

The history of Cabaret is long and not solely musical in quality by any stretch of the imagination–so, suffice it to say, it’s a modern twist on the American Cabaret that remained firmly rooted in American culture, especially the Jazzier side of Showtunes Pop.

The core of the music remains Jill’s subdued, jazzy piano playing coupled with her sultry feminine voice–which I imagine is a hearkening back to classic style, singing with a coy, flirtatious tone.   But not really.  There’s that almost girlish charm you manage to get with her voice, yet, even without the instruments and atmosphere she manages to pull off the casually morbid with surprising deftness. She dances a line of almost disturbing and seductive, a spooky haze.  This is in no small part to her well written, if often starkly depressing, lyrics–you’re going to hear a lot about death, torture and surprisingly alcoholism.  Perfect party music.  Murder ballads.  She also loves to keep her voice dynamic, whether singing in an almost agonizingly slow croon, or a ironic, bubbly bounce, or even just singing with that ever so classic hook laden show tune feel.  You’ll never have to be bored in her little den.

Musically, she really shows her sense of melody and atmosphere–all of the music is composed by her, though she employs what is not-so-surprisingly dubbed the Malcontent Orchestra, playing all of the devilish lines of music within the album.  Mainly violin and cello, but played with an almost Bohren and Der Club of Gore sense of subtlety and pacing, often becoming drones behind the music.  They of course add the rich textures and lush sounds I mentioned earlier, and there’s no shortage of memorable, if obviously low and/or minor key, violin and cello melodies swimming in the smoky haze behind Jill and her piano.  I’ll go on record saying I think the “band of skeletons” metaphor is cheesy as hell, not to mention terribly uncreative, but I’ll shoot myself for the very sake of the fact that it’s probably the best illustration of what you’re hearing–it has that classic feel, warped and morose, so you can imagine her sitting at the piano backed by a silent band of skeletal musicians in a seedy bar.  But I digress; she knows restraint and has a talent for knowing when to use instruments as leads and when to have them swaying in the distant background.  Whether it’s the piano rhythms or the head-bob inducing double bass employed, besides the sultry, hoarse string instruments, she knows when to hold ’em or fold ’em.

This slower pace often leads to more lengthy tunes, usually up at the eight minute mark, so the music can tend to drag slightly with the longer songs if she doesn’t have enough of your lapels in her hands, though I doubt that should be a problem.   That said, the music slow and melodic, but nothing to which you’ll be tapping your toes or humming on a sunny day; the mood and feel of the album, both lyrically and musically, is specific and well executed, so don’t expect anything otherwise.  Being rooted firmly in Cabaret and Jazz, anyone with an allergy to that style, as well as the usual theatrics and histrionics  (be them as clever or humorous as they are) should probably avoid.   It’s not happy, though I smiled a few times.  It’s also not Cabaret Punk or Rock (though her new album The Bittersweet Constrain gives off that energetic rock feel, if that floats you boat), so don’t get any funny ideas.  She’s got class.

At the end of the day, what you have hear is an intelligent woman with a knack for piano and moody music; it’s clever, atmospheric and well written, with the more subtle ends of humor and melody.  The lyrics are just as much a part of the music, and will cut you to the bone ; her voice and piano are to die for; the rest of this instrumental troupe is killer; what I’m saying is that you should hear this album. Or else.

Alright, that was painful; it’s a wonderful album, and that’s all you should need to know about it to enjoy it.

But seriously I will kill you if you don’t.

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3 Responses to Jill Tracy – Diabolical Streak (11/01/2010)

  1. Agapitus says:

    I didn’t know this genre existed in the current timeline. Granted, I haven’t looked with a surplus of dedication.

    Nonetheless, I am in love with this style-the particular artist aside-so thank you for bringing about my introduction. Priceless, to be sure.

    Fuck me. Going to delve into this for a few weeks.

    • fuckyournames says:

      There’s been a small resurgence lately, but Jill certainly is one of the best. I might go more into this later, but I’ll have to keep things variable until someone starts suggesting albums, so I don’t get stuck on a broken review record.

      Totally worth delving into.

  2. nostalgiatape says:

    “Smooth as fuck”

    Best tag ever? Possibly.

    Do a review on some old school Soul! Like some Millie Jackson or Etta Jackson. Getting your perspective should be interesting xD

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