Album Review: An Invitation by Inara George With Van Dyke Parks
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
Taking a break from the Bird and the Bee's retro electronics, Inara George teamed up with family friend Van Dyke Parks to create an album of elegant symphonic pop. An Invitation is the stylish result, with George playing the part of a modern-day jazz singer (she's more Norah Jones than, say, Diana Krall) over layers of strings, flutes, brass, and piano. Given the general lack of percussion, George is required to set her own pace, a challenge she meets with nimble phrasing and rubato delivery.
With her ethereal, swooning soprano, Inara George is a thus far underpraised indie-pop princess. The daughter of late Little Feat frontman Lowell George, Inara’s voice is a thing of understated beauty, best exhibited alongside Greg Kurstin’s synthy blips and buzzes with The Bird and The Bee. This bee’s latest hive, though, is a seismic leap from ambient electro-pop.
If Inara George’s latest is indeed an invitation, per the title, rest assured it won’t come as an Evite. The L.A. chanteuse’s newest disc floats in a sort of dreamy, creamy wonderland better suited to a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers dance sequence than any clumsy modern milieu. An Invitation‘s light-fantastic orchestration, courtesy of famed songwriter and composer Van Dyke Parks (Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, Joanna Newsom’s Ys), is equally, delightfully old-fashioned — though George’s decidedly contemporary lyrics recall the arch-baroque confessionals of Rufus Wainwright and Fiona Apple.
Best to RSVP to Inara George and Van Dyke Parks' Invitation. The legendary arranger worked with George's late father, Lowell, in the 1970s and, as he did with Joanna Newsom, lays down an accomplished bed of horns, violins, and cellos to draw out her voice. "Overture" warms up, then she drops in: "Want to find the bottom of my heart. Want to be alone until I'm lonely." If that hasn't set the tone, "Right as Wrong" inscribes George's melancholy.