[ART POP] On debut EP Better Life, A Year Afar adorns striking vocalist Suzanne Tufan with savvy support from Box Set guitarist Jim Brunberg, longtime Holcombe Waller collaborator Ben Landsverk and Blind Pilot's Dave Jorgensen, conjuring a cohesive identity—though no two tracks sound alike. Landsverk and Jorgensen constitute the rhythm section, but it's their contributions on cello, trumpet and keyboards that flesh out the arrangements, alongside Brunberg's variety of guitar textures. Tufan's elastic vocal range and unbridled melodies recall eccentric chanteuses like Kate Bush and Mary Margaret O'Hara, though her slightly more mannered approach ends up closer to the prosaic quirks of, say, Natalie Merchant. Her lyrics betray multifaceted interpersonal drama: The album's opening gambit, "Lucy," pays off with, "I'm leaving you for your brother," rubbed in by the refrain, "And if you don't understand/ Look at the man," before getting to the heart of the matter: "And I'll say that I don't love you/ Without batting an eyelash." Love of language shines, as on the swooning "Capitol Hill": "'Cause he's got the roundest sounds comin' out of his mouth/ And I'm gonna let those round vowels come and get me now." You'd do well allowing A Year Afar to do the same to you.
SEE IT: A Year Afar plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Morning Ritual and Timmy Straw, on Sunday, Aug. 17. 8 pm. $10. 21+.