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Anna Murphy - "Cellar Darling" (CD)

Anna Murphy - "Cellar Darling" CD cover image

"Cellar Darling" track listing:

1. Introspection
2. Soundwaves
3. Lovelornia
4. Out of Control
5. Twin Flames
6. Ailurophile
7. Cellar Darling
8. Pale
9. Epic Fail
10. Woebegone
11. Red Lights
12. Sick
13. Harley Quinn
14. Breath
15. Island
16. Antihero (The End of the World)
17. Johnny Guitar

Reviewed by on January 15, 2014

"Anna’s stunning physical voice as well as her poignant written voice is ever present and permeates not solely your ears but your mind as you search for the deeper lyrical meaning in her words."

Cellar Darling is the much talked about debut release of Anna Murphy, Eluveitie frontwoman and Hurdy Gurdy player. While Eluveitie has made major waves in the folk metal pool, Cellar Darling is on the utter opposite end of the spectrum and thus a very important release which deserves the attention of the metal community despite it having a more pop/electronic/rock feel. Anna herself has preferred her coined term “Eclectica” when describing her work on Cellar Darling and given the major versatility of the album, it’s quite a perfect if not an unorthodox term!

Since there are 17 tracks on this album, I can essentially promise a novel if singularly reviewing each one, so instead I will focus on the strongest tracks on “Cellar Darling.” The album starts out with a spoken and sung interlude called “Introspection” that sets the tone for the music to come. Upon listening to every word in this introductory composition, one gets the feeling that Anna has literally put her soul into every tiny note and utterance in this album.

The vocals are rich and dark and serve to enchant the listener and prepare for the fact that this is not a metal album. As Anna has traditionally thrilled with her powerful, unique voice and somewhat mysterious image, the resulting eclectic mix on this album is a big surprise for those used to the metal aspect, but a pleasant one nonetheless.

There is a little bit of everything in this 17 track album: we have electronica, funk, rock and of course a little hurdy gurdy. There are so many different facets, that it takes a few listens to really understand what is happening with the concept of "Cellar Darling." There is a stunning and lush quality to the versatility on this album and it prompts me to compare the style to artists like Florence and the Machine or Esben and the Witch. Anna’s lyric writing is strong and paints a vivid, yet slightly disturbing, picture.

In the material she covers love, addiction, confusion, and other dark concepts all while managing to hypnotize the listener with soaring powerful vocals, and in the next beat causing us to lean forward for a better catch of breathy fragile interpretations.

“Twin Flames” is the strongest track on the album by far and I could not stop listening to this song! It showcases Anna’s vocal strength in flawless chest to head bridging that really lets her highs and lows ring true. With an airy hurdy gurdy line at the beginning of the song giving way to probably the most unique vocal delivery of this album or even genre, it’s hard not to fall in love with this song. About halfway through, Anna thrills the ears with a flawless vocal jump with perfect vocal control that serves to remind us of the fact that both of her parents are opera singers, and singing is in this siren’s blood.

Another track on this album that really jumps out is “Pale.” While there have been varying thoughts on this track because of its simplicity, I really enjoyed the overall delivery. With a throbbing bass line in the background and some funky drums the song is otherwise a capella. Though there is a lot of lyrical repetition in this track, it leaves the listener room to hear the complexities in vocal tone and give the feeling that Anna is trying to send a message or deeper meaning. This particular track is more on par with a Jack White style of music maybe because of its candor and major vocal risks, and perhaps because of this is a mysterious track with a lot of appeal.

On my first listen through, I actually was not crazy about the track “Woebegone,” but after having “Cellar Darling” playing for a solid three days I have to say that this was the last track that won me over. It’s a fragile sounding song, with ethereal vocals and piano lines that linger after the track has ended. The harmonies in which there is a slight dissonance float in the ears long past the track time. It brings to mind a more Tim Burton-esque theme, and could easily be in one of these darker, slightly creepy but still beautiful movies. It’s a bit fantastical in its fragility and is altogether a very endearing song. About halfway through the track, Anna gives us a little more power and sorrow in her tone which grips the heart and I found my eyes unintentionally watering.

“Cellar Darling” ends with a powerful cover of Peggy Lee’s Johnny Guitar, which is a very different style than the other tracks on this album and thus an interesting and welcome variation! Anna is a little more soulful in this song, and nails the darker vocal tone expected from this somewhat sad song.

This entire album is almost impossible to not like, even if one gravitates away from pop or rock traditionally. The strength lies in the flexibility of Anna’s voice and writing style and her multi-present talents and skills as an instrumentalist. Every song is vital to the comprehension of this release and though it can often be in longer albums that there are filler tracks, there isn’t one track on “Cellar Darling” that fits that category. Anna’s stunning physical voice as well as her poignant written voice is ever present and permeates not solely your ears but your mind as you search for the deeper lyrical meaning in her words. Though it took a long while to get the solo album that perhaps many fans of Eluveitie have been waiting for, this was well worth the wait and deserves a spot in your music collection!

Highs: Breathtaking vocals and a delightful versatility that vacates one from the stagnancy of genre monogamy.

Lows: A big transition for listeners of solely metal, there is literally nothing for those who might expect a traditional Eluveitie style album.

Bottom line: A versatile and well rounded debut from Anna Murphy, and a wonderful introduction to a solo career with a ton of potential.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)