There is a lot here to digest and savor.


Swan Song Series Vol 1-6
Tanya Donnelly
American Laundromat

A six volume set from Tanya Donnelly (Belly, Throwing Muses, The Breeders) was originally released as EPs from 2013 and 2015. Now the Swan Song Series has been compiled into one project, along with the previously unreleased Volume 6. The original intent of these digital release was to serve as Donnelly’s entrée into retirement from the music business. Several guest appearances are noteworthy: Rick Moody, Robyn Hitchcock, her former Breeders’ bandmates, and John Wesley Harding.

Donnelly’s vocals fall into a range somewhere between Sheryl Crow, Beki Hemingway, Karin Bergquist, and Leigh Nash. “Christopher Street” of Volume 1 is a throwback to her earlier Belly days, as is “Storn Blown Bird” on Volume 6. “Blame the Muse” fills the niche of 90’s jangle pop/adult alternative music. Notable in Volume 2 are “Mary Magdalene in the Great Sky”, “Why So Sad?”, and Miranda (Pacifically), the last featuring a ukulele.

On Volume 3, Robyn Hitchcock’s backup vocals make “Salt” a standout, while “Cygnet Song” also contains similar harmonies. “Cape Ann” of Volume 4 is reminiscent of the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”, although more in the vein of the Susannah Hoffs/Matthew Sweet cover version. “In Your Name” could be an Over the Rhine outtake.

Overall, I could compile a great two disc album from the thirty-one songs contained here. I can see why these were originally done as a series of Eps, because after a while, a sameness sets in as the songs begin to sound very familiar. Still, there is a lot here to digest and savor.

Brian A. Smith
19 April 2016