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Phylactery Factory

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Album Review

Boston-based singer/songwriter Casey Dienel made her recorded debut with 2006's Wind-Up Canary, a quirky, somewhat scattershot but often excellent collection of jazz-influenced pop songs. White Hinterland's Phylactery Factory is for all intents and purposes Dienel's second album: she is the singer, sole songwriter, and keyboardist, and although it's considerably more lush in its arrangements, Phylactery Factory is musically a complete stylistic continuation of her debut. Dienel was only 20 when Wind-Up Canary was recorded, and has matured considerably in the intervening years: there's a consistency of tone in her songwriting that was less evident on her debut, and though her voice is still something of an acquired taste (comparisons to Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark, Laura Nyro, and even Joanna Newsom are appropriate), her vocals come off considerably less mannered this time out. The four-piece band is supplemented by perfectly deployed horns, strings, vibes, and other instruments (including, on "Hung on a Thin Thread," what sounds like a musical saw), giving the album a musical depth that matches perfectly with thoughtful songs like the heartbreaking the-war-at-home narrative "Hometown Hooray" and the jaundiced, romantic ruminations of "Dreaming of the Plum Trees." With songs ranging from the swelling martial rush of "Napoleon at Waterloo" to the stark voice and mandolin closer "Vessels," Phylactery Factory is a varied, endlessly listenable album that moves Casey Dienel from promising newcomer to genuine talent, no matter what she calls herself.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

White Hinterland is the songwriting vehicle of Casey Dienel, whose chirpy vocals and jazzy arrangements draw similarities to Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell. The Massachusetts native made her debut as a solo performer in 2006, when the album Wind-Up Canary was released by Hush Records. Dienel then returned to the recording studio with Matthew Jean-Paul Meyer, Maximillian Haft, and Christopher MacDonald in 2007, eschewing her brief solo career and becoming a bandleader instead. Later that year, she signed...
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