Reviews

Set the Woods on Fire

Author: Jeffrey Parker
08/01/2007 | Spin.com | www.spin.com | Feature
Who? Art in Manila is the latest progeny of Omaha, Nebraska's Saddle Creek label. The sextet is comprised of former Azure Ray starlet Orenda Fink on vocals and guitar, Adrianne Verhoeven on keys and vocals, Dan McCarthy on keys, Steve Bartolomei on guitar, Ryan Fox on bass, and Corey Broman on drums. The band's debut LP, Set the Woods on Fire, arrives Aug. 7, just prior to the band's fall jaunt opening for Rilo Kiley.

What's the Deal? When Azure Ray, Fink's ethereal pop duo with fellow Alabaman Maria Taylor, disbanded in 2004, she amped up the country with her solo offering, Invisible Ones, a contemplation on spirituality filled with death and God and maybe redemption -- "prophets, pimps, angels, whores," as she sang -- and plenty of Southern Gothic heaviness. With Art in Manila, she turns her voice, which is still pure like a bell and richly sad like red wine, to similar subjects (mostly the soul and its torments). Her band, cobbled together from people she toured with solo, makes it all seem less lonely. More passionate numbers such as "Spirit, Run" and the acoustic beauty "The Abomination" bear this out clearly, but even on pieces of gorgeous sorrow like album bookends "Time Gets Us All" and "The Game," there's the sense that not all is lost because even poor Orenda has someone to keep her company.

Fun Fact: Art in Manila was originally going to be called Art Bell, after the creator of and the radio voice behind late-night syndicated talk show, Coast to Coast AM. The famed broadcaster, who officially retired from the show July 1, is famous for delivering commentary dealing with paranormal phenomena like ghosts and UFOs. Although the subject matter seemed to fit the aesthetic of the band, there were potential legal issues, so the band name was changed to make reference to Bell's 2006 tenure in the Philippines.