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Alt rock, heavy on the alternative

On a String
On a String
By Joanie Mendenhall

Self-released: 2008

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This review first appeared in the November 6, 2008, issue of the North County Times.

Opening her new album with a syncopated chorus on what sounds like pump organ, Joanie Mendenhall's new CD starts off as some sort of art-rock fugue. But as "Total Wreck" develops, it opens up into a vein of contemporary alternative rock with only hints of Kate Bush or Jane Siberry providing a touch of avant garde. With an instrumental lineup of horns, guitar, keyboards and rhythm section performing her intriguingly constructed compositions, though, the Carlsbad resident keeps one foot in the experimental camp while also exploring pop accessibility through some brilliantly pure melodies.

The arrangements play up the unusual compositional structures, with thickly layered choruses giving the album a wall of sound feel – sort of a Cocteau Twins vibe updated by 20 years.

It's all anchored by Mendenhall's singing – her high, seemingly fragile voice dancing atop the band.