July 15, 2004

Edith Frost "Demos"

Gotta give the internet credit for allowing artists the ability to release whatever it is they want to. I’m always amazed at some of the crap that gets released, and I always wonder why these people don’t save their money and just put their music up for free online, because nobody’s going to buy it. Then, of course, Edith Frost comes along and posts an entire album that’s as good as her officially released records, and I get even more frustrated. Demos is simply that—a collection of demos from her three excellent albums, as well as a few extra goodies. So while this free internet only album isn’t exactly new, it’s certainly a welcome breaking of the Edith Frost drought.

What’s wonderful about Edith Frost’s music is its utter simplicity. While she’s had the help of some really talented people (Sean O’Hagan, Jim O’Rourke, Royal Trux, Archer Prewitt), Frost’s haunting voice and simple guitar work has always been the main attraction. It’s no surprise that Drag City signed her based upon her demos, because Frost and a guitar is all you need for pure musical perfection. Her debut, Calling over Time, was an impressive collection of sad folk songs that took many by surprise—myself included. It was stark and raw, due in part to the fact that it wasn’t that different than a demo tape, even though it did feature the production of some of the best producers in Chicago.

Because her debut album was practically a demo, the majority of songs found on Demos are from her later albums, with her most recent album, Wonder Wonder, providing the majority of the songs found here. The only time Frost has ever really faltered is when she escapes from the simple formula that makes listening to her music so rewarding; Telescopic found her getting lost beneath a psych-rock mix and Wonder, Wonder was a more upbeat affair, but neither of them contained the special magic of her debut, Calling Over Time. Demos frees her songs from the productions which stifled them at the time, allowing them to flutter away into the big blue Texas sky. It’s amazing to hear “Telescopic” and “On Hold” in such a simple, stripped-down arrangement, making them a lot more moving and emotionally touching than the finished versions. “Wonder Wonder” and “Cars and Parties” were two songs that were full band productions, and Demos makes these already great songs even better. The final two songs are Country covers, “I Get The Craziest Feeling” by Floyd Tillman and “Look What Thoughts Will Do” by Lefty Frizzell, and are quite lovely.

If you’ve never heard Edith Frost before, shame on you—now go download Demos! In fact, I recommend this to new listeners, because it’s pure, prime Edith Frost—raw, unmixed, and simple. Demos is as close to a greatest hits record as you’ll be able to get, and it will certainly satiate you between now and Edith Frost’s new record (whenever that will be).

--Joseph Kyle

Available At: http://www.comfortstand.com/catalog/027/index.html
Artist Website: http://www.edithfrost.com

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