Eliza Rickman’s first full length CD just came out, and I recommend it to everyone. The album contains a mixture of compositions from her earlier EP, mostly composed on Toy Piano, and a number of newly recorded songs with full piano and strings backing. The latter songs are where the album really stands out, and one ends up wishing there was a lot more of it on the CD. Compositions such as “Devil’s Flesh and Bones,” “Through an Aquarium,” “Pretty Little Head,” and particularly the title track “Oh, You Sinners,” are surprisingly layered, only really exposing themselves after a third or fourth play through.
Gothic themes permeate in the album, such as the bouncing diminished chords in the “Devil’s Flesh and Bones,” or the wailing chorus line of “Cinnamon Bone.” But its a gothicness more reminiscent of Emily Bronte than Trent Reznor. The heroines of her songs dream sometimes of being ravished by dark strangers, and sometimes of a home with white picket fences, and they do so in such a way that you imagine both dreams are one and the same. In one verse, her heroine admits to one of the many questionable romantic interests on the album that she both wants his baby and “can’t say no.” The CD begins and ends with images of roses, the first as a symbol for an aggressive and angry sort of love, the last, in a love song to a man she can’t have, evokes images of Barbara Allen and young William, with the briar and the rose growing from their grave.
Through it all, God is a sort of ambivalent force that only seems to care about what doesn’t matter. Ms. Rickman’s background – she’s the daughter of a Baptist preacher – seems to come out here. Like the hero of a Flannery O’Conner story, God doesn’t keep his promises, and sin is something perhaps to be proud of, but despite her best efforts, God doesn’t go away. He stays in the background as a constant reminder that you’re being punished.
Please catch her on tour if you happen to be in the area she is playing.