June 26, 2009

Rachel Taylor Brown – Susan Storm's Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes

Rachel Taylor Brown
Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes
Cutthroat Pop; 2009

Rachel Taylor Brown

Let’s get your obvious question out of the way right off the bat – you are reading the title of this albulm correctly. These eight songs are most definitely comprised of stories about a variety of comic book characters and Roman Catholic saints. Rachel Taylor Brown employs her lilting soprano and her off-beat, folky piano-pop to sing about the stories and personality quirks (some real, some imagined) of some rather entertaining characters (some real, some imagined). If you can visualize along with me, Brown’s music is akin to the baby sister of Tori Amos growing up on a steady diet of quirky freak-folk and indie music, all while calling Joanna Newsom one of her best friends.

Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes features songs from the perspective of the disaffected sister of the Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four), Galactus, the World Eater (Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer), and the bastard son of Bruce Wayne (Batman). Despite how fanciful those songs might be, I feel that her odes to Edith Stein and St. Francis (“Teresa Benedicta Also Edith Stein” and “Giovanni Bernardone (St. Francis)” respectively) serve as the true standout cuts on the record, mostly because her mood and tone leave behind the whimsical for the passionate and sincere. In the end, what I found most surprising about this record was how much I came to enjoy Brown’s infectious melodies and overactive imagination, despite my initial misgivings on the decidedly curious and weird subjects.

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