Song-telling? Story-singing? As weird as her self-created classifications may be, it's a good thing Dawn "the Faun" McCarthy deigns to stoop to the level of music journalist. It saves us the agony of making up bullshit genres like "autistic folk" or "three-cents-short opera" to describe the bizarre sound of her project, Faun Fables. Since 1999, McCarthy has quietly crafted a work of alarming idiosyncrasy. Her third record -- Family Album, released last month on Drag City -- resembles a disjointed jam session between Kate Bush, Cat Power and a mummified Sandy Denny. In reality, though, McCarthy leads a loose ensemble of players contributing flute, xylophone, cello, refrigerator hum and whale cries to her theatrical, fantastic take on classic folk and cabaret. Her most steady collaborator, guitarist Nils Frykdahl of San Francisco's Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, also lends an unsettlingly stentorian vocal presence to Family Album: Think Michael Gira channeling Neil Diamond, and then try to forget it before the nightmares come. In a world sodden with mundane singer-songwriters, the vivid, self-made mythology of Faun Fables is almost apocryphally compelling.
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