album reviews

Tanya Donelly
Whiskey Tango Ghosts
4AD (2004)

Tanya Donelly's solo albums have veered off the path of her former band, Throwing Muses, from the inconsistent pop rock of 1997's Lovesongs for Underdogs to 2002's adult-alternative beautysleep. Her latest, Whiskey Tango Ghosts, follows that trajectory into even more bland territory, sounding like self-centered love songs more for the Enya crowd than for college-rock alumni.

Ghosts is less orchestrated than beautysleep; many tracks are just piano and vocals with a little guitar. While that sparseness sends Donelly's soprano floating atop every song in a hot-air balloon, her vocals become overwhelming without anything tying them down. She sings as slowly as possible, masticating each syllable until the last drop of flavor is squeezed from it. Although Ghosts has a few torchy moments, most of the album is all rainbows and butterflies (literally, in "Butterfly Thing"), with lyrics that are as mushy as baby food (she actually sings "You are the love of my life" in "The Centre").

The album's weaknesses are most exposed in its 37-second bonus track, an a cappella version of "Dona Nobis Pacem," which sounds less like a political statement (the song's only lyrics translate to "grant us peace") than something Donelly recorded in a spare moment on a karaoke machine at her daughter's day camp. Although she did take the time to add a countermelody, the track still feels like an afterthought and, like the rest of Ghosts, never really goes anywhere beyond Donelly's self-absorbed enjoyment of her own voice.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 4 August 2004
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