The Golden Dove (Matador)

Mary Timony 

The Golden Dove (Matador)

On Mary Timony's solo debut, Mountains, the former Helium frontperson flitted so far into her enchanted forest that many listeners got lost in the mist. On The Golden Dove, she considerately leaves some bread crumbs to mark her trail -- even as she winds through a lyrical menagerie of peacocks, owls, lambs and tigers.

Timony first showcased her fantasy side on The Magic City, Helium's wacky 1997 concept album. Despite song titles such as "Lullaby of the Moths," Magic City remained accessible, fusing fairy-tale imagery with frenetic rock. Unfortunately, when Timony wandered out on her own in 2000, she shrugged off guitars in favor of medieval instrumentation that failed tragically -- and often comically.

On The Golden Dove, Timony strikes a more satisfying balance between her raucous past and her supernatural present. Although the record still tends toward laughable lyrics, Timony's current muse offers some Liz Phair to balance out the C.S. Lewis. Her dreamy vocals vie with growling riffs and organic violin, and her pop-punk sensibilities resurface. Over a swirl of guitars, Timony sings in her spooky alto, Hey, baby with the wounded knee/You got caught up in Cripple Creek/Hanging out with the Jesus freaks/Let me show you what it means to me, proving she can still write nicely esoteric lyrics that aren't about unicorns.

But as the album winds on, Timony slips too far into court-minstrel mode, constructing songs that contain all the energy of a funeral dirge. On "14 Horses," she hitches torturously slow vocals to a dragging melody; on "Magic Power," she offers a silly sea shanty that sinks straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Ultimately, The Golden Dove only hints at the powerful punch needed to help listeners navigate Timony's ethereal haze. But the album's strong start shows she's capable of flavoring her magic potion with a pinch of good old-fashioned girl rock, if she'd only come down to earth more often.

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