Notwithstanding what it might sound like, A Fine Frenzy isn’t the title of some post-punk Brit band festooned in Hot Topic pinstripes. It is, rather, the pseudonym of Seattle-born indie popstress Alison Sudol, whose sophomore album, Bomb in a Birdcage, successfully bucks a disturbing trend: the emergence of pop princesses who aim to disguise unoriginal ideas and tedious poetry with forced quirkiness. Instead, the album, like Sudol’s 2007 debut, One Cell in the Sea, is smartly sweet, its crisp edges and flickering melodies intricate and impulsive rather than formulaic. Sudol remains an ever-engaging dinner guest, spinning her free, easy tales of triumph and heartache while rarely stumbling into the tic-heavy gimmickry of Regina Spektor and other like mavens. Even the album’s forays into the world of pap—the escalating bubbliness of “Electric Twist,” for example, and the syrup-drenched “Happier” and “World Without”—are surprisingly bearable, with Sudol proving savvy enough to flirt with her audience’s tolerance levels without becoming overwhelming. Beguiling schmaltz, thinking man’s pop, brainy bubblegum—whatever the label or qualifier, Sudol’s ability to deliver it with dependable grace makes Birdcage a rewarding, if still slightly guilty, pleasure.
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