Review: The Ingigo Girls

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The Indigo Girls' music has unquestionably changed from its beginnings back in the late 80s. Where their first, eponymous album opened with two acoustic guitars strumming the underlying chords of "Closer to Fine" in close accord, their most recent album, "All That We Let In," begins with a perhaps more country-ish and bluesy sound than traditional Indigo Girls fare offers, bringing in electric guitar, drums, and synth all before the vocals of the first track, "Fill It Up Again," pick up. Equally, the rest of the album defies certain expectations that might be set up by earlier work. The Girls no longer seem to use the rough edges of their voices to evoke painful emotion in the listener, and their music less frequently holds the simple purity of two singers and two guitars. But these changes do not mark a turn for the worse; as much as I love their old style, it's also nice to hear them moving in new musical directions.

A theme can perhaps be seen in the collection of songs on this latest album, a lesson in taking bad situations and perking them up again. Many of the tracks have depressing lyrics but still upbeat tunes, and the story told in pictures in the liner notes is one of a lifelong struggle ending in the triumph of a job well done. The lyrics deal primarily with relationships, both good and bad, friendship and enmity. The world and the environment are always considerations, too, and "Tether" speaks obliquely of the eventual ineffectuality of war.

Although the lyrics usually take precedence over the accompaniment, on various occasions the instrumental introductions to the pieces are used to set a tone either in accordance or opposition to the basic intent of the words. "Heartache for Everyone" is practically a dance beat, the bouncy music in stark counterpoint to the wistful looking-ahead of the lyrics, while the introduction and initial accompaniment to "Tether" are played primarily on the Wurlitzer organ, lending it the sanctity of a church anthem.

The songs are balanced equally between Emily's and Amy's compositions. Both Girls have shifted somewhat in style over the years, in writing and performance, their voices mellowing to a sweeter tone, which also lends a different dynamic to their music. However, it is possible that this new gentleness is also partially attributable to backing vocals by Joan Osborne, who sings with the Girls on a number of songs.

Undoubtedly, the Girls will continue to evolve in their musical style, but what will surely not change is how good they sound together, and how enjoyable their songs inevitably are.
Darcy Krasne


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