Andrea Ball

Building on some of the ideas presented on her last album, 2008's Beat Beat Pound, Andrea Ball once again sidesteps the well-worn singer-songwriter template on Dial Tone, her latest effort, in favor of more plodding, piano-heavy arrangements. Fleshed out by an array of interesting sounds, the dynamic range here swings fluidly from sparser numbers — with sighing strings, gently moaning saws and murmuring horns creating a spectral backdrop for Ball's hushed vocals — to more forceful and deliberate tunes driven by clacking rhythms, staccato piano lines and snare hits. Resembling Fiona Apple as played by Maria Taylor, Ball brings a distinct cinematic flair to Dial Tone. (The record was produced by Cinematic Underground mastermind Nathan Johnson, whose past work includes film scores for both Brick and the Brothers Bloom — so this isn't entirely coincidental.) Most sequels disappoint; this one does not.

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