Tracy Shedd – Arizona
Tracy Shedd has quietly assembled an impressive run of solo records – and her fifth is the quietest of all. Arizona is the first album Jacksonville native Shedd fully conceived since relocating to Tucson with her husband, guitarist James Tritten, and the desert air has put her in a tranquil mood.
Shedd has long been enamored with the power of stasis – her love of cleanly played minimalist patterns made three of her first four albums an ideal fit for Teenbeat Records, best remembered as the home of Unrest. She flirted with dreampop atmospherics on 2006’s Louder Than You Can Hear and dabbled in girl group structures on the excellent Cigarettes & Smoke Machines. Five years removed from Cigarettes, however, she’s shed all percussion – stripping the proceedings down to little more than her enchanting voice and Tritten’s gently plucked guitar.
The result is intimate and lovely. Shedd seems intent on establishing this sedate mood, front-end loading her gentlest songs to the point that their hushed beauty verges on monotonous. However, she gradually increases the tempos (“Broken Arrows”) and introduces subtle flourishes like organ and a few male backing vocals to keep these thirteen tracks sufficiently multi-dimensional. And the core strengths of her haunting voice and Tritten’s hypnotic guitar are constants.
An album this understated needs a calling card, and Shedd punches this ticket with a pair of attention-getting covers. She’s not the first to tackle the Magnetic Fields’ virtually bulletproof “Candy,” but sadly she adds little to the equation. Shedd fares far better on her duet with the Patron Saint of Alternative Arizona, Howe Gelb, on a piano-laced re-crafting of Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot” that transcends any novelty overhang. If that’s what it takes to draw you to this minor gem, by all means go for it. Otherwise, consider whether your collection has room for a disc that slots between pre-electronica Everything But the Girl and Young Marble Giants. Fans of Mark Kozelek would also approve.