A black cab pulls up to the corner in heavy rain and its trenchcoated passenger jumps out, newspaper over head, collar up against the autumn wind; a woman in a weathered checkered dress stares out of a café window, wondering whether she'll get across the channel to Paris in this weather, and whether her mother, "Kathleen," is watching over her from heaven. The debut full-length disc from New Jersey to Greenwich Village to England transplant A Girl Called Eddy (a.k.a. Erin "Eddy" Moran) is, to put it mildly, filmic in its evocative, comfortably melancholy '60s-isms: Whether or not Eddy's lyrics contain black cabs and becoated Michael Caines, cupping their hands around burning cigarettes, they're in the atomic makeup of these 11 minor masterpieces.
She's called her record after herself, although other titles come instantly to mind: To Ma'am With Love, because Eddy's Lulu-like chanteuse-ness comes with a subtle streak of empowerment that emanated from her forebears and since was lost. Or Eddy in Memphis, because Eddy's white soul isn't copying Janis or Mary J., but an era in which such singing was its own end. Or anything about the problems of two people not amounting to a hill of beans, which would be ironic since, as Eddy seems to know all too well, those problems are inherently the only ones we've got.
"People Used to Dream About the Future," for example, which could be about a man and a woman who realize that "even your youth has let you down," or it could be about a culture that's lost its way entirely and not only has stopped looking forward, but has stopped thinking about a day when it may want to remember. "When did we stop taking pictures / and when did you lose all your fight / and where did you sign / give up and resign / I never gave up on you." Combine Eddy's coolly uncalculated vocals and Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley's brilliant, epic production with such melodic crescendo, and these songs become quite simply gutting.
In the early 1990s, former Swell Maps and Crime & the City Solution drummer Epic Soundtracks rewrote the rules of "lounge" singing, his album Rise Above proving to many that Scott Walker's and Bacharach and David's pop noir, in the right context, could be more devastating than Marshall stacks and blood-curdling screams. A Girl Called Eddy is something of an heir to this idea, part of a class of such artists (along with the likes of Sarah Shannon and the Divine Comedy) and yet already, on her debut album and with the help of Hawley, pointing toward something greater. While such singers, in particular the post-new wave school of British neo-soulies, often rely on their influences' smooth example to clear musical paths for them, Eddy's songs rely only on themselves. "Life Thru the Same Lens" could enhance any decent singer's evening, and "Tears All Over Town" may someday be a repertoire requirement.
A Girl Called Eddy doesn't, by any standards, break any new musical ground - and the ill-advised fake LP-imprint on the cover and occasional bursts of false vinyl clicks and background fuzz make this album out to be some kind of one-trick throwback that belies such strong content. But even compared to her oft-touted influences (Springfield, Walker, Nick Drake), A Girl Called Eddy makes a strong case for this new artist. When placed next to the obvious current comparison, Norah Jones, there's no question: Eddy is subtle where Jones is mild, weathered where Jones is stretching, and compelling where Jones lingers in the background. In a world where so many singer-songwriters are desperate to tell you they've got something to say, A Girl Called Eddy not only has it, but it's something worth listening to.