FAME Review: Amanda Homi – ‘Till I Reach Bombay

February 16, 2014

‘Till I Reach Bombay is a distinctive hybrid of a number of musical traditions based loosely in Hindustani musics, a disc I very much suspect Bollywood is going to perk its ears to. Amanda Homi sounds like a cross between Annie Haslam, Sally Oldfield, Carly Simon, and similar chanteuses dancing about in spirited chart-worthy ditties easy on the ear, light on the heart, and more than enticing enough to shake a hipsway around the living room or dance floor to. Some cuts, such as the fiesta-oriented latinate Shoes, are bouncy and up-tempo with lyrics at first seemingly innocuous but slowly commentaristic in sly observations, a mid-point between the carefree and critical.

There are touches of the Buggles, Lene Lovich, and Annie Lennox all through the album, but nothing quite so much as late period Renaissance, when they’d gone prog-pop circa Camera Camera and transcended into a third manifestation that went largely uncommented upon but would find much easier acceptance now. Here, though, in Homi’s work, the presence of oud, cura saz, cavaquinho, zills, baglamas, tabla, and other World accouterments keep the mix exotic and multi-continental. The wistful Lorca’s Desire interpolates lines from Federico Garcia’s famed work, Jon Albrick’s guitar straddling Hispanic and Norte Americano boundaries, with Ara Dinkjian’s oud echoing from Iran. All the while, Homi soars above the band in beautiful encantations. More than once, I was reminded of Renaissance’s Mother Russia and other of that band’s catalogue, this time from a quite different place.

Still, though, I think the opening cut, Dancing Girls, is my favorite, with its falsetto Lollipop Guild vocal harmony refrains transported to the sub-continent. The title cut is strongly reminsicent of what Art In America was doing in their (sadly) only release years ago, a great mixture of pop and prog-pop, but of course with saffron and vindaloo. Cards, Coins, & Chaos carries that vibe forward with intriguing verses and accelerando, Dinkjian tossing in a great solo on…oud? cura saz? I suspect the latter as the pitch seems to match the soundbox of the instrument. Lastly, though, if you think you might have heard these golden vocals before, you’re correct, as Amanda’s performed or recorded with Jane Siberry, They Might be Giants, Jackson Browne, Toots Thielesman, and many others, also managing to snag Graham Hawthorne (David Byrne, Paul Simon, Suzanne vega) for production and arrangement chores this time out.