BY FRED MILLS
It’s an exquisitely chosen band name, this Good Graces; for while frontwoman Kim Ware, of Atlanta, has been compared (favorably, and for the most part, accurately) to Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair and Kristin Hersh, there’s an ineffable goodness and grace evidenced here that literally takes the breath away at times on this songcycle of love discovered, experienced, fractured, reaffirmed, then surrendered. Perhaps we should add devastation to that description, because at the end of the album the narrator/protagonist finds herself accepting the inevitable: it’s over.
As abetted by guitarist John McNicholas plus a host of talented players that includes producer Rob Dyson on bass, synth and programming on a number of tracks, Ware tip-toes across a minefield of emotions at once literal (in “Parts > Sum” she sings, “I have been untrue/ My actions have hurt everyone/ But mostly they’ve hurt you”) and metaphorical (“Ever feel like you’re a loaded gun?” she queries, in “My Own Grace,” later adding, in “Under the Weather,” almost as an aside, “I’ve always loved the summer/ Even though I tend to burn.”
Blood On the Tracks and Shoot Out the Lights fans, take note.
As with all classic breakup albums, though, the music is what keeps the listener riveted no matter how unsettling the lyrics may be. Early on, in “Cold in California,” a thrumming, jangly arrangement (plus some unexpectedly jaunty harmonica) lets the sun shine in; the elegant waltztime of the aforementioned “Under the Weather,” what with its stately piano and brief-but-uplifting trumpet interjections, offers additional optimistic solace. The solo number “Shea,” just Ware and her strummed electric guitar, which summons the aforementioned Phair notion, is similarly chummy. And with searing raveup “Standing In Line” the artist locates herself as a power pop maven of estimable power—grace, even—to the point of making the tune a shoo-in for indie-pop mixtapes of the future.
Actually, make that mixtapes for now: time to drag that old cassette deck out of the attic and fire it up.
DOWNLOAD: “Cold In California,” “Standing In Line,” “Parts > Sum”