Agent Ribbons is the type of band that throws a Genesis reference right after a Brothers Grimm line – and then makes them rhyme. With their sophomore album, Chateau Crone, they present a smorgasbord of moods, tempos, and instrumental combinations to choose from. Beginning with the steady percussion/guitar/vocal combo “I’m Alright,” they come off like a less pop-infused Charlotte Gainsbourg, or possibly a more much more energized, throatier Mirah. But the further the album progresses, the less they sound like anyone else. They jump from a traditional sound to a theatrical one, and then on to one boasting the distinctive notes of an accordion. But to me the most unforgettable parts of this album are the lyrics – each song gives off an entirely different mood, from a the feisty Independent Woman of “I’ll Let You Be My Baby” (“Now I’m not lost/ I have merely found/ Much finer ways/ To pass my days/ You’re good in bed/ Enough said.”) to the fiercely nostalgic “Grey Gardens,” a mood resplendent in the title of the track as well as the words of the song themselves.
Even with all of the different rhythms and allusions jam-packed into these baker’s dozen songs, Agent Ribbons manages to maintain a distinctive style throughout. The slightly schizophrenic variety is in fact a pleasant change from all those bands that somehow compile entire albums from what seems to be different variations of the same song. Not only are there Edith Piaf –reminiscent sections in “Oh La La” and violent crescendo-ing violin scales in the final song, “Wood, Lead, Rubber,” but they all seem to come together; the sum of the album is greater than any individual track. This duo (and sometimes trio) is not afraid to play around with their sound. And what a sound it is – they have clearly come a long way from their first album recording in a friend’s basement in 2006. Polished but not contrived, Natalie Gordon protests, “I used to be so smart/ Now I make it look so hard.” But anyone who listens to this album would think otherwise. Rumor has that their live performances are awesome as well – and if the images evoked by their lyrics are anything to go by, I can’t see how they wouldn’t be.