Amanda Palmer rose to fame with her band The Dresden Dolls and has recently been touring with Jason Webley in the circus sideshow-themed act called Evelyn Evelyn. All you need to know about that show is that she and Jason Webley play conjoined twins made to perform by an evil sideshow owner. She is a manically amazing performer, very twisted and talented and has one of the best Twitter feeds on the Internet.
Not content to release standard material, Palmer’s newest release is a very strange yet amazing one. You see, Amanda Palmer loves Radiohead and she loves to play her ukulele, so of course her next release is Amanda Palmer Plays The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele. Having heard the album, I can assure you her ukulele is indeed magical and she is as talented as ever.
The opening track is “Fake Plastic Trees.” It starts with some light strokes on the magical ukulele and when Palmer’s voice starts to join in, it is a joy to hear. Obviously, a track with just voice and ukulele will tend to sound subdued. This one certainly does, but it is haunting and soulful at the same time. “High and Dry” is the next track and while Palmer’s voice and ukulele are the stars, we also have some backing piano music to add to the tone of the track. Again the song becomes uniquely Amanda Palmer with the classic (and very singable) Radiohead tune sounding fresh and wonderful in this version.
“No Surprises” is the next song and once again it is a very subdued track; the presentation is minimal but very personal, and echoes of her passion for the music carry through in a very satisfying way. The next track is “Creep,” but this one is subtitled “Hungover at Soundcheck in Berlin.” It is a much more freeform cover than the others on the EP, and it shows. It is not my favorite on the album, but it is still very good. You can tell that she was stretching her voice and trying a few of her own ticks and sounds and again makes the song her own.
Next is “Exit Music (For a Film).” This song makes a liar of the EP title as there is no ukulele apparent; instead it is all piano and Palmer. It is an excellent track that again shows Palmer’s passion for music and her soul being poured into the song. It is not her own music, but she sings it like it is and the result is magic. I do find that the levels on this song seem a bit off and that her voice is a tad drowned by the piano. But the result is still amazing and must be listened to.
A live version of “Creep” is next (odd to have two versions of a song on an EP, but it is a truly great song). It is truly a live track with audience hoots and participation. The version is obviously raw and the levels aren’t perfect, but it is still a better version than the other one on the EP. You can tell she was hitting her stride at this point, having a great time playing and loves the song as much as we do. When you hear the song, you can literally hear Palmer pouring her entire voice into the song and it makes me fall a little in love with her, if I can be honest.
The final track is “Idioteque” and it is also the first release from the EP. It is a great choice as the hook to attract people to the album. Fast and frantic ukulele music starts the tone, piano slowly adds to the sound, and then Palmer’s voice just cements the song into a delightful and incredibly enjoyable track. This is the best ‘produced’ track on the release (backing vocals, piano, echos), yet it still feels as personal as the other songs and is a great end to an amazing EP.
Amanda Palmer Plays The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele is not your normal everyday release. It is very niche, very personal and very, very good. I mention it many times, but the songs sound so personal, so much like Amanda Palmer is singing songs she truly loves and is sharing the results with us. I have listened to the tracks many times — in fact, while writing this review I have looped them on repeat three times and I can say without doubt that this is a release every Amanda Palmer fan must have. In fact, any music lover should give “Idioteque” a listen and then proceed to buy the track and the album once it is available.
The EP will be on Amanda Palmer’s own website, as she is now a musical free agent, and it is a donation-based release. The minimum price will be 40 cents per track (nine cents goes to Radiohead and the remainder to cover Paypal fees). If you choose to donate more, the money goes directly to Amanda Palmer. That means the entire seven-track EP (to be released on July 20) can be yours for $2.80 or more if you are not a tightwad. I strongly recommend donating more.
I plan on buying this release, despite having review copies of the tracks. It is that good, I want to hear more from Amanda Palmer.