Album Reviews

Alessi’s Ark – Notes From The Treehouse

(Virgin) UK release date: 4 May 2009

Alessi's Ark - Notes From The Treehouse Alessi Laurent-Marke’s tender age and apparent preference for music over academics (as she left school to embark on her sonic voyage aboard the vessel Alessi’s Ark) have produced Notes From The Treehouse, a sweet soufflé of innocent imagination sprinkled with entries from science and grammar texts.

The implication is that, while her free time had been spent on fanzines and plans to drop out, she obviously had been doing her homework. The toothsome fruits of this flowering ex-student are more fun than obvious comparisons to singer-songwriter Laura Marling, who also began her career at age 16, dabbles in quirky acoustic folk, and used MySpace as a vehicle for evangelising her material.

But to write Laurent-Marke off as yet another Marling would be a disservice to Laurent-Marke’s unique vocal and song-writing abilities. Throw in some enchanting orchestration from one of her indie rock heroes, and you have a debut that easily distinguishes her from the pack.

Treehouse is an invitation into the playful, loving, observant imagination of a young girl who adores nature, her parents, the heavens, and studying personal relationships. Amidst delightful lullabies such as Magic Weather, Constellations, and Woman and the more playful, upbeat selections The Horse, Over The Hill, and The Dog are references to her varied interests.

A penchant for astronomy is quite evident as her mind sparkles with imagery of solar systems being dangled above wicker beds and crashing asteroids, as well as comparisons of freckles to constellations. In contrast, more earthly figures are brought to mind as you watch the horse (that’s h-o-r-s-e, Peaches) pass and the hummingbird fly (note Laurent-Marke in the associated track as her voice throbs delicately to emulate rapidly beating wings).

What keeps these candied fantasies grounded, though, is the remarkable phrasing of the lyrics, as well as the lush orchestration that underscores it. Carried by Laurent-Marke’s exquisite, throaty vocals (picture, in a good way, a breathy Morrissey castrato singing through swollen cheeks) and heavy accent is some rather mature poetry and wordplay. Equally delectable is the lush, country-western-tinged Baroque pop upon which that voice bobs and drifts. Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes alumus and subject covered in the Brain Bulletin, Marke’s aforementioned zine) backs the lead beautifully, and does well to provide fullness to her fragile magic.

Notes From The Treehouse then is a fantastically rich if sometimes saccharine debut which introduces a rare and gifted sprite in Alessi’s Ark. There is little doubt a bright, sparkly future is in store for this West London native.

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More on Alessi's Ark
Alessi’s Ark – The Still Life
Alessi’s Ark – Time Travel
Alessi’s Ark – Notes From The Treehouse