Goodnight Venus (Heart Music)
Reviewed by Matt Dentler, Fri., Nov. 14, 2003
Libby KirkpatrickGoodnight Venus (Heart Music) Like Kristin Hersh and Edie Brickell before her, Libby Kirkpatrick makes autumn music for autumn people. Songs on her studio debut, Goodnight Venus, drop like leaves without any chance of making it back up again. This becomes a problem since the sparse, crisp melodies of her material are overcome by Kirkpatrick's hackneyed social commentary. Lyrics like, "I need a big bed where the world can sleep together," (on "Wake Me Up") seem harmless, but after repeated listens not even Kirkpatrick's breezy voice makes the sentiments seem anything less than heavy-handed. Outspoken and earnest songwriters are constantly forced to walk a thin line between poetry and pity. "The Dream That You Are" maintains some poetic prowess because of an unorthodox vocal performance that has Kirkpatrick scatting, whispering, howling, and overdubbing lyrics on top of each other. Mixed with some subtle hints of flügelhorn, it's one of the few songs listeners will be eager to find again. Otherwise, you're left with bits and pieces of promising compositions. "Silver Road" swells into some nice textures, but it can't save itself from its open-mic coffeehouse trappings. Goodnight Venus is pleasant music for a November chill even though the warm hues fade away quickly. Kirkpatrick actually prophesizes the album's undoing on "Vaulted Heart" when she sings, "I'm so glad the leaves fell/Leaves the naked trees standing tall." Tall or short, a tree without leaves is like an album without great tunes.