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When the marriage at the center of the excellent but underheard Brooklyn alt-country band The Mendoza Line disintegrated in 2007, it took the band down with it. Shannon McArdle, the feminine half of that ended union, retreated to try to make sense of what happened and emerged with her solo debut, Summer of the Whore. For my money, that album was the finest release of 2008–a painfully honest and powerful chronicle of the sadness, anger, confusion, and resignation that accompanies the end of the central relationship in one’s life.
Four years later, McArdle is preparing to release her second solo album, Fear the Dream of Axes (July 31st on Bar/None). Based on its first single, “Warden,” the album is going to be another keeper. McArdle sounds like a woman who’s put the pieces of her life back together and is ready to move on with a mixture of optimism and apprehension.
Singing in her most alluring purr atop a gently jangling guitar line and swooning strings, McArdle compares love to prison. A lover’s heart is locked up and the warden has the power to either punish it or keep it safe and protected. Escape may be possible, but is freedom from love preferable to being held prisoner by it?
Shannon McArdle has been one of the best songwriters in America for the past decade, but unfortunately her career has flown mostly under the radar up to this point. If every song on Fear the Dream of Axes is as first-rate as “Warden,” hopefully that situation will change. McArdle is way too talented to keep confined in the prison of cult status.