On their third full-length, the long-awaited “A Long, Lovely List of Repairs” (Adrenaline Music Group/Alternative Distribution Alliance), Portland, OregonÂ¹s Amelia – Teisha Helgerson (vocals/drums), Jesse Emerson (bass) and Scott Weddle (guitar/vocals) Â deliver a beautiful, spellbinding album of rustic pop, Americana, and heartbreaking rock.
Critical praise has followed Amelia throughout their career, with publications such as Performing Songwriter Magazine describing their music as “ÂŠa lush mid-tempo world of vibrato guitar, electric piano, organ and miles and miles of wide open space. The cool, dark environs of their songs evoke Cousteau, Bacharach, Weill and Waits just as easily as they conjure Gillian Welch, Natalie Merchant and Edith Piaf…. Sultry and sophisticated cabaret pop with just a whisper of twang”. Â While No Depression praised their debut, “The album [Somewhere Let to Fall] works as a conceptual whole, too; red-eyed and blue, itÂ¹s a collection of languid love songs tinged with a shade of bitter regret, and a sense of what Brazilians call ÂŒsaudadeÂ¹ Â an almost indescribable state of lonely sorrow.”
Their new album, “A Long, Lovely List of Repairs” is no exception.
ItÂ¹s fitting that “A Long, Lovely List of Repairs” arrives alongside the promise of spring, especially after a desperate, damaging winter in their hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Amelia has always had one foot in the season of despair and the other in the land of hope. It is precisely that balance of sadness and strength that makes this album so curious, compelling and bittersweet.
Spanish lyrics fill opener “Enemigo,” possibly to throw off the impatient, but anyone can hear the juxtaposition between the sprite, almost playful tone of the tune and the title subject Â‹ a hostile enemy.
Vocalist Teisha HelgersonÂ¹s smoky, sultry voice becomes a whisper for the following “Farewell,” a gently rolling and nearly aloof song that takes on a menacing tone just as she muses, “Why do I feel so wonderful?” Maybe it is because Amelia is able to find the beauty in what others consider bleak. Sweet sadness and celebratory sorrow informs every lovely move this record makes.
The gentle “After You,” swaying and sliding along to the sound of metal brushes on a snare drum, dives straight into such heartfelt contradictions, citing knowledge that shifts within a breath and fiction that is truth.
Though Amelia now largely exists as a three-piece, “A Long, Lovely List of Repairs” is fully fleshed-out with aching violins, piano, Wurlitzer, clarinet and all manner of unexpected sounds right on down to those of a Coke bottle. Â Producer Mark Orton (Tin Hat Trio) artfully orchestrates the diverse and often otherworldly instrumentation with consistently understated results.
“Dolores” walks along with a gate that is simultaneously heavy and delicate, taking time out to twirl and dance with marked glee before continuing forward with a sense of purpose both remorseful and somehow carefree. In the end she, and her song, quietly fade gracefully from view, never revealing her true disposition.
Dripping desert guitar tones calmly wind their way through “Eyesore,” a riveting, desolate slice of soothing sonics that somehow slides out of reach just as it has finally shown itself.
The albumÂ¹s poetic title comes near its close, on “Needlework,” a song that masks its complexity with cinematic restraint and somehow ends up sounding like a cautionary tale told by a grandmother as she steadily rocks herself, unafraid, from the world of living into that which is unknown.
For Amelia, there is strength in vulnerability, joy to be found in tragedy and stunning beauty in what is broken and seemingly in need of repair.