The songs on Chloe Day's first record, The Return of... , could have been rendered as jammy acoustic folk, conventional alt-country, or ironized indie guitar rock. In other words, they might have blurred into an overpopulated, indistinguishable singer/songwriter landscape. Thanks to Day's eccentric sensibilities, as well as producers Dayton Borders, Nick Bischoff and former St. Louisan Meghan Gohil, the album vibrates with the trashy percussive grooves of hip-hop and the creepy, tensile ambiance of electronica. "Oh, so she plays trip-folk," you say. If you must, trace her music back to Beth Orton, but only if you cross paths with the improvisational montages of Joe Henry or Neneh Cherry along the way.
Day grew up in St. Louis -- there's a certain Midwestern candidness in her high, tart voice -- but has spent the last nine years in the ultra-competitive indie-pop environs of L.A. Something of the city's jaded, energetic derangement seeps through her sound and signifiers. Opener "Kingpin" surveys a rotting town "filling up with too much decadence"; "Thirsty" turns late-night, bo-hoboing into an exercise in soul death; while "Catfight" exacts a surprisingly poisonous revenge on a fool. Yeah, her songs have edginess in spades. The record's center, though, feels like the open-souled reverie "Finger-Painted Smile," a cello, violin and guitar ballad which somehow recaptures and restores all the colors lost, all the hope drained when a lover or a friend departs. Day's voice, songwriting, and musical risk-takings show enormous promise; her finest work is surely not far down the road.