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A Fine Frenzy is a force of nature

November 13, 2012|By Steve Appleford, steve.appleford@latimes.com
  • Alison Sudol, of the band A Fine Frenzy, sits in a tree in Griffith Park. Her new album, "Pines," connects nature and human emotion. Sudol spent her adolescent years in Burbank and recorded her first album there, and performs Nov. 16 at the Wiltern Theater.
Alison Sudol, of the band A Fine Frenzy, sits in a tree in… (Photo by Steve Appleford )

Alison Sudol finds comfort in the woods. The singer-songwriter and leader of the band A Fine Frenzy grew up mostly in Los Angeles and Burbank, and even there she's often found herself gravitating toward a convenient corner of nature. On a recent afternoon, it was a picnic table along the pathways of Griffith Park, where she noticed something moving under a tree.

“What is that? Is that a squirrel?” Sudol, 27, said affectionately, peering into the shadows. “That is the biggest squirrel tail I have ever seen.”

Nature and nurturing is a recurrent theme in her music, going back to her 2007 debut, “One Cell in the Sea,” which mixed stories of romantic disappointment with wildlife as a metaphor. Her new album, “Pines” is a mature, deeper version of that, with songs that are expansive and emotional, mixing the organic with the post-modern.

The new album's seven-minute opening track, “Pine Song,” connects human passion with her awe of nature, singing of “pining” for a lover as the music swells from a quiet vibration of strings to a cinematic swirl of acoustic guitar, piano and whispers of sound. Sudol's voice is soft and dramatic: “The words you speak / Stir things in me I thought were gone . . . I can feel it through the fields of graves / A beating heart / While rolling hills are roaming through my veins.”

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“The whole point of it is to stop pining, and to start being present and start living the life I want to live,” she said of the song, one of many she will bring to the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles (with Joshua Radin) on Nov. 16.

The album was recorded last year during a week of torrential rainstorms at the historic Studio B at Capitol Records. She thought she might write “a lullaby record,” but instead stretched out, reaching far beyond the 31/2-minute limit she always assumed was needed in a pop song.

“I wanted to utilize silence as much as I used sound — because I was creating a world,” explained Sudol, dressed casually on a warm day in a sleeveless top and skirt, blond hair to her shoulders. “There's nothing on there that isn't taking you somewhere. There's no seven-minute guitar solo for fun, or because we want to show off. I want you to feel in ‘Riversong' like you're floating down a river on your back, and you're looking at the stars, and everything is incredibly still and peaceful.”

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