Stay Tuned! on Bandcamp Essential Releases

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“There’s an elegant simplicity to the music on Dominique Fils-Aimé’s stunning second record, Stay Tuned!—there’s not an element there that doesn’t need to be. “Gun Burial,” one of the album’s endless series of highlights, consists of little more than Fils-Aimé’s voice, a bone-dry drum track, and a creeping bassline (a string section appears and then vanishes just as quickly); the gorgeous “Constructive Interference” also makes ample use of Fils-Aimé’s soulful alto, layering it tower-like over a crackling rhythm track and a few pulses of bass; and the showstopper “Free Dom” lets the vocal stand alone for a full two minutes, providing both rhythm and melody, before the rest of the band joins in, adding just the outline of shape and texture. The judicious paring-down only heightens the album’s impact: every song lands hard and works its way immediately into the bloodstream, and Fils-Aimé’s masterful performance—she is a master of both vocal control and expressiveness—lends a scorching potency to every word. Which is good, because for however stripped back the arrangements are, her lyrics are rich, carefully crafted, and full of strength, power, anger, and pain. She deftly juxtaposes ballads of love and heartbreak, like the stirring “Revolution Serenade,” with moments of bracing, solemn urgency: halfway through the buoyant jump-rope chant “9LRR,” a voice in the background begins reciting the names of the Little Rock Nine. Stay Tuned! Is a riveting record that uses minimal arrangements to deliver maximum impact.”

J. Edward Keyes