Elizabeth & the Catapult
Like It Never Happened
(Scratch Back/Thirty Tigers)
3 out of 5 stars
The third full length from Elizabeth Ziman and her band finds the classically based pianist learning guitar, adding the textures of that instrument to complex yet oddly hummable pop music. The singer/songwriter pushes the boundaries of her genre, bringing graceful jazz, oblique chord changes, pensive lyrics and even string backing to a table that manages to seem both familiar and complex.
There are echoes of Regina Spektor, Suzanne Vega, Fiona Apple and others that combine simplicity with a broader outlook as Ziman does when she goes glam on the rocked up “Shoelaces” with its galloping rhythm section. It follows the stripped down yet winding percussion, viola and piano driven “Salt of the Earth.” Strains of music hall push “Sugared Poison” and “Please Yourself” which twists and wiggles like a flag in the wind, sometimes righting itself but more often daring you to chase its zig-zagging song structure. The melancholy solo piano and voice of “True Love Will Find You in the End” leaves you wondering if the singer really means what she says.
Ziman’s husky voice manages to be buoyant, brash, tender and sympathetic as she sells these songs by sheer confidence. The album’s eleven tunes only take about 40 minutes to unwind, but the sprawling, widescreen sensibility makes it seem longer. That’s not a criticism, just an acknowledgement this is not for easy listening, dancing or background enjoyment. These are multifaceted, intelligently constructed pieces that never pander to commercial concerns or lower common denominator sensibilities. They push and prod the listener to re-evaluate what pop is by slithering away from established constructions while retaining basics such as the occasional memorable chorus to entice you back.
While this is surely not for everyone, those whose tastes aren’t constrained by traditional notions and are willing to go with Ziman’s somewhat oblique, even aloof flow, will find plenty of reasons to spend the requisite time getting comfortable with her unique style and genre expanding approach.