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my mom says you’re cool

June 5th, 2008     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

Laura Barrett describes her music as “neurotic sci-folk for neurotic sci folk,” a summary which seems so charming and concisely accurate that I may as well just sign off now and go back to figuring out how to water tomatoes from the bottom. But that would be too easy, and goodness knows sci-folk don’t take it easy.

Barrett is a startlingly unique songwriter, but you’d have to check twice to know it for sure. That is to say, she doesn’t get all up in your grill about it. Like the previously-Picked tUnE-yArDs, Barrett has a way of slipping her weirdness just under your radar, so you’re barely conscious of it before it’s gone again and you’re left wondering if she really did say something about eating plastic bags like lettuce. Also, she plays the kalimba (also known as the thumb piano) beautifully, which alone sets her apart from, well, most non-African musicians. But she’s no novelty act - the kalimba, after all, is just an instrument, like a guitar or piano, and she seems to rely on it for its uncommon and delicate sound rather than its uniqueness in indie-pop circles.

Her album Earth Sciences is now out on Paper Bag Records, which means that instead of running after her waving a five-dollar bill you’re hoping to exchange for a CD-R with a handmade sleeve (my preferred method of music acquisition), you can just order it online. Which may or may not be a good thing.

The video for Robot Ponies, the album’s opening track, is a simple and slightly nostalgic thing that will delight librarians and fans of antiquated technology alike. And should you happen to be both, well, what are you doing tonight?

Tags: picks from planet venus, playlist

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