Sound — 8
There is some great instrumentation on this album, to say the least. The opening track, 'Bodyguard' is mainly based around percussion and bass, which feels very effective. Plus the banjo is nicely played, as is the piano, both of which are not over-used on the track. The structure of the track itself is rather good, with the second verse being very different to the first. The bass stays very samey throughout the track but the percussion feels as though it is constantly changing; another point worth making, I think. 'I Don't Need No Man', a traditional track, is well played throughout, especially the guitars. There must be at least 3 guitars playing at one point, unless I'm just hearing a string instrument that sounds like one. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your view. I think it works well, nonetheless. 'Tired of This Life' is a nice, chirpy track (despite the title). It's only guitar and vocals and is nice for easy listening. 'Twilight' is a track that uses a beautiful mix of major and minor, creating an astonishing half-ballad. Tracks based around guitar/vocals, and then working up to a bigger ending with percussion and various other instruments, they always grab attention better than most others. It could easily be the best track off the album, for me. 'Private Little Hell', on the other hand, isn't as great. Although the instruments are played well, they aren't played well together, if that makes sense. The toy/thumb piano ruins the track mostly, for me (but the vocals -- i.e. on Make it break in, make it break - don't do the track any favours). 'Picture Show' is a clever yet, slightly disappointing track. The use of the instruments at the beginning to make the song sound as though it is an old 'flicker' show is clever, but most of the rest of the song just sounds badly composed. When the full band kicks in towards the end, the song lifts a lot, I must admit, but the song itself is a let down. 'Kids in a Play' is another nice song, stuck right after one of the lesser songs of the album (such a shame, really). The guitars are nicely played in the beginning, then comes the percussion and organs; a beautiful transition with even more beautiful instrumentation. 'Toy Piano' seems a little pointless, at only 1:50 long. It's a nice track -- an instrumental -- but that doesn't stop the feeling that it's only there to fill space on the album. 'Dig Me a Hole' is fairly good, being another guitar/vocals track. I like tracks like that, especially when they're as well played as this one is, the same goes for the following track 'I'm in Love With the Night'. Though this contains percussion and harmonica as well as the guitars, it's very good for easy listening. It reminds me of The Eagles, somehow... 'Goodnight Lover' is a little out of the ordinary, opening with an organ and optigan (unless I'm mistaken, which I probably am). There's hardly any guitars used in it, if any, which is refreshing, I suppose. The final two songs (in one track) are nice. Just Landes and a guitar, I think, for 'You Alone'. The final piece though, the traditional 'I Won't Back Down' is an amazing cover. Heart-wrenching, to say the least, yet it only contains a guitar and Landes singing. The album has a nice sound, overall; though it does have it's flaws, which I have pointed out.
Lyrics — 7
There are some catchy lyrics on here, and on some tracks, Landes has the voice of an angel, but the lyrics feel as though care hasn't been taken with them in some places. 'Private Little Hell' and 'Picture Show' -- although the lyrics work with the music (to an extent), they feel out of place with this album -- La la la la, life's a gag, La la la la, you're a fag. The lyrics in bodyguard, though on paper would give the song a dull look, work with the song very well. If you saw Where's my bodyguard, bodyguard, bodyguard, bodyguard? on a piece of A4, you'd be baffled too, but it works well in the song for that almost-jazzy feel. Some tracks are better than others for lyrics, but I'm a bit of a critic when it comes to lyrics, so I could be a little biased. The vocals themselves are beautiful at points, but aren't do great at others. 'Private Little Hell' and 'Picture Show', like I mentioned, are two tracks where the vocals let Landes down. Other tracks, especially 'Twilight', 'Kids in a Play' and 'I Won't Back Down', contain the most enchanting vocals on the album, enough to bring the emotions harder than with some of the other songs. Landes is a talented vocalist, but she needs to work on some areas, in fairness.
Overall Impression — 8
It's not something that I would usually buy, but it's definitely something worth trying to get into. There's the odd track that let the album down, like I said, but that can't be escaped. Even the best of albums have their bad points. The acoustic mixed with the timeless vocals give the album some great emotion and potential. Give it a try is all that I can suggest. Most people who are fixed to a genre of electric guitars, double bass pedals and OTT distortion won't like it, but anyone who enjoys unplugged material will probably like this, to an extent.