An interview by Eric Block that appeared in the Minnesota Daily (Minneapolis, MN)…
Rising talent Edith Frost has traveled a winding path — Chicago by way of New York by way of Texas — to bring to us her latest offering, Telescopic (Drag City). The 34-year-old singer/songwriter’s second full-length, following last year’s Calling Over Time, raises the volume knob a few decibels, but retains the melancholy warmth and sadness of her previous work.
"Everybody wanted [the new album] to sound different: me, the label, the people I played with — we knew it had to sound different from the first album," she says. "I don’t want to make the same record twice. Really, the only direction to go was louder — the first was so quiet."
Telescopic opens with the loose, fuzzy, rock-driven "Walk On the Fire." Elsewhere, she is comfortable with slide and steel guitars ("The Very Earth"). Frost also successfully multitracks her own voice — an old Patsy Cline trick, but one that adds a creepy edge to many of the songs.
Most of these tracks don’t need tricks to sound creepy, though. Frost crafts beautiful, minimal songs out of fragments of melodies, with arrangements contradictory to her rockabilly and country swing roots. She’s a strong enough songwriter not to need anyone else with her, but she’s smart enough to surround herself with a strong cast anyhow.
"I’ve hardly ever played solo in my life," says Frost. "I need the moral support of other people around me. I feel like I’m not that great of a guitar player. It’s okay for a couple songs, but after four or five songs people get bored with it."
Telescopic finds Ryan Hembrey and Rian Murphy adding support along with Amy Domingues, Jean Cook, and Jason Quick. Even Frost’s sparse last effort had the companionship of Drag City workhorses and Gastr del Sol boys David Grubbs and Jim O’Rourke. Everyone puts forth to create compelling takes on Frost’s moody minor-key pieces.
Her first single, "You Belong to No One," provides only a taste of the rest of the album. Her poetic verses never stray far from the relationship theme that provides a wealth of inspiration for a lot of folks. But most of the album isn’t as lyrically direct as this song, and consequentially, listeners may run into the problem of deciphering close meanings from some of her phrases. Example (from "My Capture"): "I’ll pour my clean words over your hair / And slide close into the stones."
Frost’s penchant for recognizing smooth, poetic wordplay is unquestionable. Take the refrain from "Calling Over Time": "Loving hands turn burning sand into water" (a phrase actually snagged from a Hindu pamphlet Frost was handed during a parade in Manhattan). Equally lovely and bizarre, dense and empty, many of her lines speak to something unspoken within our individual selves, places where words just can’t express our feelings.
With a new focus on doing cheerier sets (see, not all relationship songs have to be depressing), this could be the finest time for us to catch Ms. Frost, thick in the rise of her status from critics’ darling into a major talent. Striking a nerve as a comfortable, sensible friend with a normal job (she’s a Web page designer — check out edithfrost.com), Frost has the ability to haunt you, sending chills down your spine. The dreamlike quality of this music begs to be embraced with open arms, and her newfound volume commands the attention she deserves.
Edith Frost: Monday, November 23. 8 p.m.
Whole Music Club. $5, $4 students.