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V the Volcanic

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Album Review

Kristeen Young's 2011 seven-track EP, V the Volcanic, is — like X, her 2004 release inspired by the Ten Commandments — a concept album, this time predicated on Young's appreciation of classic movies. Each song is inspired by a character from one of seven different films: It's a Wonderful Life, The Wizard of Oz, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Little Big Man, Blade Runner, Imitation of Life, and Cleopatra. Without simply rehashing film scenes, the lyrics are written about or from the perspectives of often supporting characters. The title track, for instance, is about Violet Bick from It's a Wonderful Life and honors Violet while paying homage to women of note who withstood disapproval to defy the status quo. Standout "I'll Get You Back," based on the Angry Apple Tree from The Wizard of Oz, features a rhyming-letter device ("Got your mouth on my F-R-U-I-T/Just one bite gets you G-O-I-N-G") that is delightful in its context — who doesn't like the Angry Apple Tree? Musically, the song is catchy and flamboyant with distorted club beats and vocal leaps that show off Young's tremendous range. The record was produced and mixed by studio master and multi-release collaborator Tony Visconti, who also plays bass and guitar on the album. He seems to appreciate and honor what separates Young from the female alternative rock singer/songwriter/keyboardist crowd. The entire record, while including styles as diverse as dramatic keyboard rock ballad ("Imitation of Life") and funk (the title track), is aggressively percussive, with electronic effects and an emphasized low end that reinforce Young's audacious keyboard style and Lene Lovich-meets-opera vocal brand. Fourteen years after her debut, Young's assertive sound continues to be an acquired taste, but for those who take interest, V the Volcanic verifies that she remains a distinctive and compelling artist.


Born: St. Louis, Missouri

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

If Tori Amos had been a feral child, she might have sounded a bit like Kristeen Young. Like Amos, Young has a broad vocal range and a fondness for exploring the upper register, and embraces the piano as her musical instrument, but there's a wildly aggressive emotional energy in her songs, as well as an intelligently transgressive mindset that marks Young as a true original. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Young was sired by parents of Apache and German descent, and adopted at an early age...
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V the Volcanic, Kristeenyoung
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