Eliza Wren and Hallicrafters
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 11, 2003
Eliza WrenPeradventure (Phoney)
HallicraftersPony (Triangle Mallet Apron)
Two new discs from Austin's multitalented Eliza Wren skip into the office like a pair of giggling Goth girls more interested in Lee Harvey Oswald than any fictional vampire and all too happy with the coming of spring's cruelest month to care much about either. Peradventure is a collection of songs about the usual (love and loss) and the unusual (presidential assassination, a young women sliding deeper into psychosis), presided over by Wren's banjo and sweetly lilting voice amid beautiful arrangements that feature the various strings of Justin Von Kennel, Nathan Aloysius' bass, and often the driving beats of drummer Chris Stelly. The two main reasons to add this disc to your treasure are "Roosevelt" and "Shipwrecked," the latter a tale of thwarted romance that has Wren's voice long, lone, and wavering like a tiger swallowtail in a wind tunnel. Pony, meanwhile, is the second album from the Wren-fronted Hallicrafters, abetted by stringman Brian Locklin and producer Wes French, and is less a series of pub-friendly songs like Peradventure than an exhibit of delicate musical surrealism. It's the Miranda Sex Garden disc you took a chance on years ago, only better. And how many points can a band get for poignant topicality, not to mention old-school Austin street cred, when the single cover among a vibrant sea of originals is Roky Erickson's "Unforced Peace?" A gorgeous addition to the ever-expanding soundscape of these complex times.