There's nothing ordinary about Mary's Voice, the fifth album by the Music Tapes. From the singing saw, violin and banjo that make up the majority of the instrumentation to the simple yet stirring melodies, Julian Koster and collaborator Robbie Cucchiaro have made a magical album that builds on 2008's For Clouds And Tornadoes.
Over the past 15 or so years, the duo's songs have grown from ambitiously ramshackle to lovingly crafted, and much of this album is reminiscent of lullabies passed down through generations: the kind of songs we sing from memory rather than from learning. Even when they get noisy, as on To All Who Say Goodnight, the music remains somehow ethereal.
Songs featuring Koster's bittersweet, sometimes shouty, voice alternate with instrumental numbers that simultaneously soothe and energize. It's like Koster has a wellspring of positive vibes that he channels into songs without engaging in schmaltz or clichés.
Top track: Spare The Dark Streets