Elizabeth & the Catapult's fearless leader Elizabeth Ziman has some serious credentials on her musical CV. Born and raised in Greenwich Village, she was introduced to music through classical piano, leading her to fall in love with composers like Debussy and Chopin, and discovered a talent that led her to join the New York City Young People's Chorus, perform at the White House and then win a scholarship to study classical composition. After she was hired to sing backup for soul singer Patti Austin, Ziman found her own passion for writing and singing her own, songs, which finally led her to form Elizabeth & the Catapult, who recorded this stunning debut with Mike Mogis, of Saddle Creek fame.
With all that music cred, there's a lot to expect from Taller Children, the band's debut full-length. Luckily, Taller Children delivers. In spades.
For starters, Ziman's voice is a great leader, with her Karen Carpenter croons meeting Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist's sultry coos, fitting in with the multitude of styles the record encompasses, from jaunty twee indie pop in "Race You" to the lush, sweeping string arrangements in the Carpenters-esque "Raniest Days of Summer." Then there's the harmonica-driven, brush-drumming, acoustic guitar-pickin', hand-clappin', slide-guitar gorgeousness of "Complimentary Me," which drives into a slight folksy country area in a beat-up Ford truck, while staying in indie rock terrain with the clear, soft voice of Ziman and the distant backing vocals.
The record, with all it's different tastes and sounds, still manages to sound tight and complete, like something that could be a retrospective of a '60s icon, or the pennultative album from a seasoned college rock group. There is experience and talent in this debut that belies the youth and newness of the band. If Elizabeth & the Catapult can continue on this exilerating, charming trajectory, then we can expect even greater things from Ziman and her cohorts.
Elizabeth & the Catapult play The Red and Black in Washington, DC on June 19 and return to DC to play Rock and Roll Hotel on July 16 with Greg Laswell. Tickets are available on Ticket Alternative.