A Fine Frenzy is not really a band, but one very talented 22-year-old named Alison Sudol. I admit that I was first drawn to her for completely shallow reasons. I saw a photo spread with her in an issue of Interview magazine and it was lust at first sight (I have a bit of a fetish for redheads). I am also a sucker for a girl and her piano (see also: Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple). Her debut album, One Cell in the Sea is haunting, delicate, lyrical, atmospheric, and moving. I had better stop with all the adjectives.
Born in Seattle, raised in Los Angeles, Sudol graduated high school at 16 and immediately started a band. At 18 she struck out on her own. Rather than hit up the infamous L.A. club scene, Sudol secreted herself away in her living room with her music. When Virgin Records CEO Jason Flom came to see - and eventually sign - A Fine Frenzy, it was in that very living room. Her mother even baked cookies. Sudol's influences are obviously varied: Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, Philip Glass, and Radiohead are just a few. Literature also figures heavily into her music. "In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, from one moment to the next you don't know where you are, but at the end it all makes sense," says Sudol of one of her favorite authors. "You can be in the strangest situation, but it seems normal. I love incorporating that sort of twisted logic into my writing." The name A Fine Frenzy was even drawn from a line in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The first single, "Almost Lover" is soulful and sad. The loneliness and despair comes across plainly in this simple piano song. An interesting choice for a single, "Almost Lover" is much more of a "downer" than most singles. But downer in a good way, a very good way. Sudol picks things up with the next track, the far lighter "Think of You." It doesn't have that same emotional connect as "Almost Lover" and some of the simpler songs, but Alison's beautiful voice - feminine without being whiny - comes through confident and strong. A better example of an "upbeat" song is "Liar, Liar" which allows Alison's voice to soar and remain emotional throughout the maritime tune.
One Cell in the Sea is a strong debut from a very talent young musician. She goes beyond the "girl and her piano" pigeonhole. Not as angry as Apple, not as girlie as McLachlan, and not as nutty as Amos, A Fine Frenzy is beautiful music, solid lyrics, and a strong voice to tie it all together.