Elizabeth Schaefer - Moodswing
(Wrecked Moviehouse Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Story by Tony BonyataIt's not always easy being the outsider.
But that doesn't seem to bother Madison singer / songwriter / guitarist Elizabeth Schaefer who seems quite comfortable on the fringe. Mixing her folk-style, acoustic guitar with quirky, well written songs, a highly unique voice - one that draws similarities between underground-artist Lene Lovich and Kate Bush early in her career - and pepperings of alternative rock and nightclub cabaret, Schaefer's eclectic blend of music doesn't fit conveniently into any one classification.
24-year-old Schaefer began her performing career in Waukegan, Illinois when she was just 16. Since then she has played on stages from Chicago to Copenhagen and has garnered three Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards (1997 female vocalist of the year, 1997 best alternative band and 1998 best alternative artist). Her music has also made a splash with the media catching the attention of such publications as Billboard and New York's Village Voice.
On her fourth and latest release aptly entitled Moodswing, Schaefer serves up a wonderful album of varying moods that turn from elation to brooding despair at the drop of hat. From the angry, belting vocals on the powerful number "Message From A Lady" to the reflective fragility of the stark "Black Glasses" this is a woman who doesn't mind wearing her feelings on her sleeve. Opening up with the skittish "Valentine's Day" her rich acoustic guitar serves as a strong foundation for her schizophrenic dueling vocals. The twisted Brecht / Weillian "Crazy In Love" features a carnival-esque, accordion-sounding harmonica from Rock Erickson, with Schaefer's taunting voice flickering above it like a trick-candle on a birthday cake.
Although her sound is uniquely her own, traces of other 'outside' artists besides Lovich and Bush can be heard throughout Moodswing. While Schaefer vocally exhumes every ounce of her soul on the dramatic "Storm Before Sweden", ghosts of the Velvet Underground can be heard through violinist Jon Vriesacker's haunting John Cale-inspired violin, as well as the early sounding guitar gratings of Lou Reed, courtesy of guitarist Dean Welch on "Windstorm". On "Singing In A Hotel", a number about her stint as a cabaret singer at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, she briefly interjects the eerie vocal warblings of opera singer Ryan Porter which are reminiscent of the late, new wave-opera oddity Klaus Nomi.
Schaefer also pays homage to another major influence - her singer / actress mother Trish Schaefer who also lends backing vocals on three of the ten tracks- on the passionate, heartfelt song "Mama".
With a refreshing blend of music that's hard to pin down, along with a distinctive octave-morphing voice, Elizabeth Schaefer proves on her latest album that her moods truly do swing.
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