My favorite 100 albums of all time: #43 ("O, You Sinners")

"O, You Sinners" album coverA few years ago, I went to see Welcome to Night Vale, expecting to be moderately amused. Instead, I was blown away by the WtNV cast, and their supporting musical act Eliza Rickman. At first I was thinking "well, this lady with the toy piano should be interesting." And then… she sang.

Having almost no expectations, I was absolutely blown away when Rickman began singing. Her voice is lovely, powerful, and entrancing. If she were a siren, I'd have gladly steered my ship towards the rocks. Instead, I steered myself to the merch table and snagged O, You Sinners.

"Black Rose" gives a pretty map to the terrain you're about to cover with simple melody and stomp to go behind Rickman's vocals. If you're not wowed by her voice in the first few moments, well… I don't like to tell people their opinions are wrong. But you're wrong.

"Through an Aquarium," is a little more instrument-heavy, with piano, percussion, and strings. This wouldn't have been entirely out of place if it were dropped onto Little Earthquakes.

"Cinnamon Bone," is another song sparse with just the toy piano and vocals to drive it. In no way is this a criticism. Rickman layers vocals to glorious effect, supplying a lower register chant below the main vocals.

I suppose I should say something about more than Rickman's vocals here. "Devil's Flesh & Bones," features some particularly wonderful strings, with a full compliment of violin, viola, cello, and bass. And also fantastic vocals.

Rickman breaks out a more full set of instruments again on "O, You Sinners," and again supplies her own chorus by layering vocals. I find the melody on this one particularly beautiful, though that's applicable to pretty much every song on this album.

"Pretty Little Head" has a plucked string intro before being joined with Rickman's voice, and more insistent percussion. It feels a little more primal, a little more raw than "O, You Sinners" or "Cinnamon Bone" – there's more to sink your teeth into here. It closes a cappella, though, rather powerfully.

Every time I listen to Sinners, I find myself humming bits of it for days (maybe weeks) afterwards. Just little snippets, but they stick with me. "Start with Goodbye, Stop with Hello," is the worst offender. Rickman's voice hits angelic highs and lusty lows on this one, and the toy piano tune is surprisingly catchy.

Thanks to multi-track magic, Rickman provides her own choral rounds as background to "White Words." The effect is rather impressive, a one-woman chorus. There are almost no instruments on this one, save a triangle or chime nearly two-thirds the way through the song.

"Coming Up Roses" is heavy on the organ, you might mistake it for a hymn if you weren't paying attention. There's an interesting use of "singing wine glasses" on this one as well, and gentle bass in the background. The lyrics are quite clever as well. "And darling divine, you're cutting my bones / with words you won't say, hands you don't hold."

The final track is a cover of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Into My Arms." Once again, it's devastatingly beautiful.

Unless you happen to be a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, or have heard me blathering on about her, it's entirely likely most folks haven't heard of Rickman. If there's any justice in the universe, she'll be a household word someday. Don't wait, though, head over to Bandcamp and get a taste of her music now.

Author: Joe Brockmeier

Joe Brockmeier is a long-time participant in open source projects and former technology journalist. Brockmeier has worked as the openSUSE Community Manager, is an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) member, and participates heavily in the Fedora Cloud Working Group. Brockmeier works for Red Hat in the Open Source and Standards (OSAS) and manages the community team.

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