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MISSY ROBACK (Buy CDs by this artist)
Just Like Breathing (Hear Kitty) 2002

It's hard to overstate the value of an inventive producer to a singer-songwriter — after all, there's no shortage of fine voices in the world, and before one can begin to appreciate the qualities of a solo performer's composition, the arrangement is its crucial calling card. For an artist with as intimate a mindset as Connecticut-by-way-of-San Francisco's Missy Roback, it doesn't hurt that her producer, who is also her husband, is ex-Rain Parade leader Steven Roback, a formidable pop power in his day — and, evidently, hers. Just Like Breathing is rich, comfortable chamber pop — not too fussy, not too ornate — in subtle but strong service of songs about relationships in trouble and emotions in check, loves lost and found. Roback sings in a firm, inviting alto with a muscular vibrato; a tinge o' twang that adds a come-hither suggestiveness to her late-night lyrics is echoed in the steel guitar cries of the opener, "Take It Back." The deliberate tempos underscore the fullness of the album's instrumentation — guitars, cello, piano, organ, drums — while amplifying the impact of such flavorings as feedback (on "Sight Unseen"), e-bow ("Compass") and mellotron ("Sleep With the Mermaid"). A handsome, engaging, intelligent debut.

[Ira Robbins]
   See also Rain Parade