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When weird is good

By Red Pocket

Tzadik Records: 2004

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This review first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Turbula.

How can something so edgy and weird and intentionally annoying be so very seductive?

Because "Thick," the debut album from the new band formed by Jewlia Eisenberg and Marika Hughes, is as charming as it is strange. And there are bucketfuls of both wonderful and wacky here.

First, both Eisenberg and Hughes have gorgeous voices; together, they create a harmony that is utterly enticing.

Stylistically, Red Pocket is probably closer to the 1970s jazz-folk vocal project Joy of Cooking than anything else. In fact, in both their blending of art and popular musics and in their overall vocal sound, Eisenberg and Hughes are pretty close to what Terri Garthwaite and Toni Brown created 30-some years ago.

Only Red Pocket is clearly a 21st Century band. There are edgy alt-rock influences here, broad swaths of avant-garde jazz, a classical streak or two, and who knows what else.

And where Joy of Cooking tended toward a folk combo setup in instruments (guitar, drums, etc.), Red Pocket is built around Eisenberg's upright bass and Hughes' cello, giving it a much deeper sound.

No background music here – "Thick" is consistently loud, often dissonant and frequently just plain bizarre.

It is always grounded by the gorgeous melodies the two women have written, the mentioned vocal harmonies, and the interesting instrumentation.