Pirouetting around the headspace between despair and jubilation, Dagger's fourth release unfolds like a spirited black box cabaret production. Multimodal artist Allyson Lipkin's alter ego spins ragtime and blues-inflected yarns teeming with snark and sentimentality. The Deep Sombreros/Minor Mishap Marching Band saxophonist employs clever wordplay and twisted arrangements to refine her uniquely compelling persona. Luminous guests like Swans drummer Thor Harris and Golden Dawn Arkestra multi-instrumentalist Laura Scarborough heighten the execution. True to its title, "Dead on the Vine" bristles with dark-alley emotions at a warbling tempo indicative of low-battery life. The elegiac "True Story" utilizes highly specific metaphors to put a personal spin on universal loss, while a cover of "Heartattack and Vine" drives home the Tom Waits influence with spirited panache. The album's most distinctive track, "Day Bowie Died," confounds the critical path in the best of ways, dropping an overcast, synth-laden contemplation on identity and mortality right between the reeds.
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