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susan-storms-ugly-sister-and-other-saints-and-superheroes.jpgRachel Taylor Brown
Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes
Cutthroat Pop
8/10

Rachel Taylor Brown is a standout, to say the least. Since her debut album in 2001, Brown has cut a swath in the music world with her haunting voice and a blend of dark, avant-garde songwriting and whimsy. With the release of her sixth album Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes, she’s back at it again, exploring the strange world of comic books and Christian martyrs as only she can. The result is an album that is as eerie as it is beautiful.

As the first bars of the record make clear, this is anything but a lighthearted romp, as the atonal piano notes of “Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister” spell out, and with lyrics like “I could kill you/but you wouldn’t know me”, why should it be? The weirdness continues with a bittersweet ode to that great planet eater, Galactus, recalling vintage Freddie Mercury. Yet the real kick in the gut is “Bruce Wayne’s Bastard Son,” based on a storyline in one of the later comics in the DC canon. But in Brown’s version, Wayne’s playboy cover comes back to him in ways that he couldn’t imagine.

Brown’s uncanny voice and creepy tickling of the ivories recalls to mind PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple, even a female Chris Robley, to a degree (coincidentally, Brown and Robley often perform together on tour). That said, not all of the songs will appeal to everyone. Some will like the comic-themed tunes, while others will appreciate the powerful introspection of songs like “Giovanni Bernardone” or “St. Fina.” Regardless of the relative dislike or likes of fans, “Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes” is an impressive example of a female musician at her best.

At $13.00, this is definitely worth a trip to the local record store.

–John Winn