January 22, 2003

Stephanie Dosen "Ghost, Mice and Vagabonds"

A pretty girl in a Victorian-style lace shirt and tussled-about hair, Stephanie Dosen certainly does catch the eye. My first guess about what kind of music she makes is simple: Goth-light with a hint of folk. Ta-da! I was right. But oh my, how right I was! But instead of simply being a Goff Girl, Dosen's music is as pretty--if not prettier--as she is. Maybe I'm a sucker for an intelligent girl making intelligent music, but that's a whole other book of poetry, my friend.

Lest you think that above paragraph is a bit flippant, think again. Ghosts, Mice, and Vagabonds, Stephanie Dosen's debut album, is nothing more than a pleasant forty-five minutes of acoustic, slightly atmospheric folk-rock. She probably has a few 4AD albums in her collection, as she occasionally sounds like Heidi Berry, Lisa Germano, and Tanya Donnelly. The strongest moment on Ghosts, Mice, and Vagabonds, "Weak," shows strength in the guise of vulnerability, and overall her songs indicate that you don't have to be loud and mean to be strong in spirit.

The only problem with Ghosts, Mice, and Vagabonds is that Dosen's songs are good, but at time her singing seem too by-the-book, too clinical. To her credit, none of the songs really sound the same, which helps break the monotony that can develop in folk music. She seems a bit hesitant to really let her voice soar, opting to show off her technical ability, but at times this leaves you with the feeling that the music and the singing seem to be off-sync. Thankfully this only happens on "Song of the Maydoves" and "For the Sake of Drowning," two otherwise beautifully written songs. She possesses a very beautiful voice, but at times she seems to be trying too hard, which makes her singing seem somewhat strained and restrained.

That, however, is a minor quibble, easily forgiven for someone who is starting out. Gorgeous music always is a pleasure, and Ghosts, Mice and Vagabonds is a very pleasurable debut album. Forgive her the awkward moments of inexperience, and you'll think what I think: this is a beautiful start to a promising career.

--Joseph Kyle

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