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The Goblin Market - Haunted

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Artist: The Goblin Market

Album: Haunted

Label: Camera Obscura

Review date: Jan. 25, 2006

Green Pajamas members Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller released one previous album under their Goblin Market moniker, 2001's Ghostland. As with that album, Haunted is a bit of a concept release; Ghostland concerned itself with the pre-Raphaelite movement, and the writings of Christina Rosseti in particular. The songs on Haunted were all inspired by the writings of Joyce Carol Oates (hence the title, that of a book by Oates).

The baroque feel of Kelly and Weller's instrumentation suited Rosseti's imagery well, and that is again the case here. The moodiness, the use of acoustic guitars, piano, and the delicate vocals drench the songs in shadow like a weeping willow from one of Oates' stories.

While the songs are inspired by Oates' novels and poetry, it is worthwhile to note that a familiarity with or even a liking for the writing is not essential for enjoyment of the music. I will confess to not having a high opinion of the writing, but that didn't prevent me from appreciating this album on its own.

Moments like Weller's vocal crescendo in "Zombie" and the guitar-soaked chorus of "Bloodstains" are plentiful, and of course anyone familiar with the Green Pajamas will know to expect a goodly amount of skilled guitar playing here. The electric guitar lead in "Beasts" is so subtle and well-placed as to almost pass without notice, but were it not there, it would be missed; and the slide work in "First Love" is terrific.

The title track combines a slow loungey/cabaret feel with outbreaks of drums and pop outfittings, and culminates in a pipe organ-led bombast that will assuredly get your attention. Many others combine a melancholy atmospheric pop with bits of somewhat psychedelic rock naturally akin to the Green Pajamas. Closer "The Tattooed Girl" and opener "Dark Days" are perhaps the most successful cuts on the album, both adeptly blending lush keyboards and strings with lithe guitar and strong vocals.

"Calla" is a bit too lethargic, and while the vocals on the chorus are quite nice, they're not quite enough to lift the song out of its doldrums. "The Model" is a long, slow builder, quietly eerie synth floating over piano and barely-there drums. Kelly's plaintive vocals spread themselves over the music in a weary way, alternating with slow acoustic guitar and subtle strings. The song should be too long at eight minutes, but somehow it isn't. Instead, it remains intriguing throughout, much like the album itself.

By Mason Jones

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