Label: ATO (UK)
Brandi Carlile knows exactly what she likes: Roy Orbison's romantic grandeur, Fleetwood Mac's tragic California pop, k.d. lang's passionate twang. As with most of her previous efforts, these qualities form the basis of The Firewatcher's Daughter. Yet numerous surprises pop up as well. The most obvious is the 21st-century blues rocker "Mainstream Kid," which shows Carlile to be a powerful howler. Another is "Blood Muscle Skin & Bone," which finds the singer-songwriter going for a peppy, wiry indie sound. With its mega hooks and Best Coast-style backing vocals, it really is pure beach pop.