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Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields chose well when picking out their name. The New York duo makes music that hints obliquely at some distant mythopoeic paradise, while persistently reminding you how far from such a place you really are (the Elysian Fields, in Greek mythology, are the land of happiness to which all the blessed dead are sent). Theirs is a seductive, noirish sound that conjures visions of a place of perfect happiness and absolute beauty, even as strains of exhaustion and melancholy weave their way through the mix, betraying the mundane corporeality that entraps us all. Singer Jennifer Charles's breathy voice is all dusty velvet and silk, containing hints of sultry torch ballads, lugubrious folk ballads, and defiant blues laments. Her vocals are complemented beautifully by Oren Bloedow's masterful arrangements, which are deftly minimal, allowing Charles's voice do to the songs' emotional work while quietly ensnaring you in nets of haunting guitar, cool organ, and delicate, slinky percussion. The music is pensive and sad, but far from gratuitously so; rather, Elysian Fields transports you, as all great poetry does, immersing you in a world of lilac nights and uneasy moonlit oceans, smoky piano bars and cool embraces.

Charles and Bloedow began performing as Elysian Fields in 1995. Their first release was a self-titled EP on Radioactive/MCA. Their first full album, Bleed Your Cedar, followed later that year. Soon after, the duo returned to the studio with producer extraordinaire Steve Albini (Shellac). The ensuing album was raw and harsh (as is typical of Albini productions) and the studio blanched at putting it out that way, while Elysian Fields refused to remix it. The impasse was resolved when the duo walked away from the label, and consequently the album, which is now unlikely to see the light of day. Elysian Fields then moved to Jetset Records and recorded another album, this time doing their own production. The album, Queen of the Meadow, came out in 2000. It features "Black Acres."