Tekla Waterfield’s “The Curtain Falls” pleasantly defies categorization without being wildly experimental.
The latest album from the Seattle singer-songwriter and former Harborview Elementary and Marie Drake Middle School student, who will be in town for a performance Dec. 21, is a collection of cleanly produced, well-crafted and mature pop songs that show off all the tools in Waterfield’s utility belt.
There’s a nearly song-to-song fluctuation in genre with vintage drum machine beats and Waterfield’s voice serving as the album’s major through lines.
The hand-clap new wave rock of “Original Lies,” folk-tinged numbers like “Red and Blue” and the slow, swelling atmosphere of “Nice Try” don’t re-invent the wheel, but the tracks accomplish what they set out to do with aplomb. The songs are often afforded the space to stretch their legs and do a little more, too.
Most of the 10 tracks on “The Curtain Falls” clock in at more than three minutes, and while it’s easy to imagine tighter takes on the material, it’s a richer album for letting the music breathe.
For example, the five-minute-33-second “Deeper” waits nearly half of its run time to unveil its synthesizer flourishes and distant saxophone wails. When they burble to the surface of the ethereal music, it’s a pleasant surprise that feels right.
The genre hopping and run time also allow Waterfield’s collaborators to shine. String arrangements courtesy of Andrew Joslyn and baritone sax from Kate Olson add texture to an album that keeps things interesting and distinguishes the album from similar singer-songwriter endeavors.
The heavy does of vintage drum machine is also one of the album’s signatures, and promotional material for “The Curtain Falls” cite Air as a major influence on the album.
All of the disparate instruments sound great thanks to production and musicianship from multi-instrumentalist Jeff Fielder, a multi-instrumentalist in the Jay Bennett mold, who happens to be Waterfield’s husband but also has credits that include work with Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees and Amy Ray of the Indigo girls.
Fielder’s contributions include but aren’t limited to bass, guitar, synthesizer and drum programming in addition to production.
The various efforts all serve to add to the gentle experimentation that make “The Curtain Falls” feel of a piece with recent releases by Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price that are pushing roots-influenced music toward a more cosmic, poptimistic place.
Key tracks: “Original Lies,” “Red and Blue,” and “Home Again”
Check it out if you like: Jenny Lewis, late 2000s Wilco, Aimee Mann and/or Caroline Rose.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.