Last week on Facebook and Twitter I was praising a brand new single from Odetta Hartman called “End Of The World.” I didn’t review it here because, as I’ve mentioned a million times, I don’t like to review singles very much. After doing a little sleuthing, I found that she has an EP out called Tally Marks, which that single wasn’t featured on. The EP is equally great so I’ve decided to roll the two into one review.
“End Of The World” was brought to my attention by the good folks over at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, where the song was recorded. Thank goodness I know those people, because this single is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. I heard it one time and it was one of those instant things where you just know-this is perfect. It’s a timeless piece that feels familiar and brand new at the same time, even after a dozen or so listens.
With a mix of ragtime, dixie jazz, and pop Hartman leads us on a great journey toward the afterlife. It has a mardi gras spirit to the whole thing, so much so that you’d think it was recorded in the middle of Bourbon Street rather than Brooklyn. Listening to it now, as I write this, the trumpet work by Billy Aukstik alone is enough to make it worth downloading. Add in Hartman’s gut-wrenching wails in the final 90 seconds of the song and you have a real contender for any year-end list. I’m not going to post the bandcamp version of the song, which is amazing. Instead, check out this video of Odetta and This Ambitious Orchestra performing at Le Poisson Rouge (it captures the essence of the song in a great way even if the audio isn’t perfect).
The Tally Marks EP is a bit more subtle, but no less compelling. The jazzy notes stay consistent with “End Of The World,” while adding in some blues and 50’s doo-wop. Hartman’s voice at times brings to mind singers like Fiona Apple or Regina Spektor, but it is wholly unique. One of her gifts, I think, is that the vocals feel like they’re being sung by someone you know.
My favorite song of the four featured in this collection is “Letters & Postcards.” Gryphon Rue plays a singing saw that floats around in the background and it fits perfectly alongside Hartman’s violin. This one is like an old campfire ballad cowboys may have broken in to out on the trail (assuming they had some guitars, a saw, and a violin).
According to Bandcamp, the EP was posted in July of last year. According to her Band page on Facebook, they just had a release show for it last week. Whether it was released a year ago or a week ago, it’s one of the best things I’ve heard in 2013, and I urge you all to go and pick up both the EP and the single. With any luck we will get a full tour with the whole band and everyone across the country will be able to enjoy the good time promised in the video I posted above.