Azita, Meg Baird Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Oct. 29, 9 p.m. 2011

On her powerful new Disturbing the Air (Drag City), Azita presents her songs with just her voice and a piano. (That is, except for some meticulously arranged string samples on one song and subtle synth shadows on a few others.) The starkness fits the dark mood of her new compositions and places the focus on her elegant melodies and poetic lyrics, which wrestle with the meaning of (and grieve for) a failed love. Using her beautiful, reedy voice to navigate startling key and tempo changes, Azita makes sudden leaps into her upper register that are sometimes jarring—it's as if she's grabbing you by the throat, and that's precisely the point. The new recording isn't for casual listening, and gives up its riches slowly; I've had Disturbing the Air for few months, but I've been getting more from it with every listen.

Philadelphia singer Meg Baird—best known for her work in psych-folk band Espers—emphasizes her own songwriting on the new Seasons of Earth (Drag City). It's her first album since her 2007 debut, Dear Companion, which was dominated by covers; her new effort has undeniably pretty melodies and somewhat elusive lyrics, but the real achievement is how Baird uses her gossamer voice. She frequently shadows her delicate singing with overdubbed harmonies that sound even more ethereal; the vocals hang on a gorgeous lattice of acoustic guitar and haunting ornamentation provided by a revolving cast of instrumentalists; the most effective guest is Marc Orleans of Sunburned Hand of the Man, who adds pedal steel and Dobro. Philly harpist Mary Lattimore—who plays on Seasons of Earth and in the latest incarnation of Thurston Moore's backing band—will sit in for a couple songs during Baird's solo set tonight. —Peter Margasak Azita headlines; Baird opens

Price: $10

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