Michelle Cross & Joe Frawley :: Dolls Come to Life (Dolls Come to Life)

A suite that plays like an Edmund Gorey children’s book, with Cross’ unsettling but deeply affecting song illustrated with dark romantic flourish by Frawley.

Joe Frawley is an accomplished, suggestive collagist and ambient composer from Connecticut. Michelle Cross is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Chicago who spent much of her childhood in Japan, and whose voice and playing has garnered well-earned respect. On this outstanding collaboration, all the songs have been written by Cross, including an unnerving  re-write of Rogers and Hammerstein’s ”My Favorite Things.”

Frawley creates an Alice-through-the-looking-glass atmosphere on the opening “Scenes from the Doll Hospital,” as Cross tumbles wordlessly in the mix. As a world comes into focus around her, Cross broods over childhood in lyrics brittle, tender and wrenching, dealing with the meaning of memories revisited in a dusty attic kneeling before a chest of old toys. Frawley swathes them in rich arrangements that range from vinyl crackle to orchestral surges, treating her voice and piano and sampling other voices that comment and complement her words and intonation.

Dolls Come to Life is seriously cathartic, for the listener, too. The mood darkens considerably with “No More Dollies,” an anti-Christmas carol, and teeters on the brink of nightmare as Cross trembles through “My Favorite Things,” which brings up disconcerting memories of whispered confessions, bright cherry blossoms, “sexual doodles” and “finally seeing a bad day come to an end.” The elegiac “Lullaby for Girls Without a Grandmother,”—”Can you show me how to draw a pretty girl?”—is a heartbreaking contrast to the loner’s “sexual doodles.” Inanimate objects coming to life is really only a dream scenario for children.

A suite that plays like an Edmund Gorey children’s book, with Cross’ unsettling but deeply affecting song illustrated with dark romantic flourish by Frawley.

Dolls Come to Life is available on Dolls Come to Life.

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