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Eleni Mandell: Miracle of Five

Eleni Mandell: Miracle of Five

Release Date:2007

By Matt Cibula | Posted 2/7/2007

This singer/songwriter works in the benighted genre of alt-country, but she has three important arrows in her quiver. First, her voice is a lovely, clear thing that can put over any kind of song, from the torchy "My Twin" to the campfire-folky "Dear Friend." Mandell is not in this to show off her amazing vocal prowess, though. She starts out "Beautiful" in a tuneless whisper, which she wouldn't do unless she was more concerned with selling the song's ambiguity--"Your eyes are the same eyes you had yesterday/ So you know who you once were"--than with vanity.

The second weapon is her songwriting, which is by turns intelligent and creepy and funny. "Girls" is a stalker's waltz featuring clever--but not too clever--couplets like "I am the dice you roll in the alley/ I am the pennies that come in handy." The title track demonstrates a knack for ciphering that would make Erykah Badu doff her turban in awe, while "Make-Out King" pulls off a last-minute Rickie Lee Jones twist: "I'm sure I know better, beware/ The make-out king is starting to care." But the main advantage Mandell has on Miracle of Five is her band; anchored by solid drummer Kevin Fitzgerald, this group understands the virtues of space and restraint. If you listen close, you'll hear all kinds of strange guitar textures, courtesy of ringer Nels Cline. And the guest on vibes? None other than X drummer D.J. Bonebrake. A woman smart enough to use all of Los Angeles as a weapon deserves respect and admiration.

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