The latest album by Oakland recording artist Carla Kihlstedt and her band, 2 Foot Yard, is a distinctive and remarkably eclectic effort. Kihlstedt, also of Tin Hat Trio and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, plays violin and sings most of the lead vocals; Marika Hughes, also of Charming Hostess and Vienna Teng, plays cello and sings backup; and Shahzad Ismaliy, of Secret Chief's 3, plays guitar and drums.
Borrowed Arms is complex and moody with curious experimentation and skillful genre-mashing in which chamber music meets rock and quite a bit more. The first song, the tarantella-like "Octopus," creepily beckons with a mysterious beat, a temperamental violin, and Kihlstedt singing with spooky elegance, I've got three hearts and one's for you. "Borrowed Arms," the title song, morphs back and forth between being a jazzy, sweet waltz-like ballad and a more tortured-sounding piece; it could almost serve as a profoundly interesting first dance for a bride and groom. "Crisis" is a classic Kihlstedt "violently upset song," the musical expression of an honest crisis, or the act of desiring a crisis. It's a great example of why critics have made comparisons between Kihlstedt and artists such as Metallica and King Crimson.
Kihlstedt, Hughes, and Ismaily play and sing exquisitely, as do their many guest musicians, such as Rob Burger, Ben Goldberg, and Jim Campilongo. One could draw parallels between Kihlstedt and her comrades to other highly creative female vocalist-composers such as Björk and Joanna Newsom, but the fact is, they entirely outdo them in musical ingenuity. The compositions of 2 Foot Yard are astoundingly intricate and seductive, the lyrics are thoughtful and penetrating, and the music is an undeniably clever mixture of a great variety of styles. (Yard Work)
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