Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Veda Hille: This Riot Life [Ape House, 2009]
With a dozen unheralded albums behind her, a piano-playing Vancouver theater composer bases an incomplete song cycle on her departed grandma's hymnal, records it with a chamber orchestra, and attracts funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and ex-XTC label head Andy Partridge. Yet the starchy smell of money getting into bed with gentility is overwhelmed by Hille's melodicism--if how persistently a song runs through your head is the test, my hook of the year award goes to "Book of Saints," its theme the refusal of martyrdom by Saints Agnes and Clare (and a damn fine theme it is). The tunes sag toward the end the way tunes do, and shame on Hille for sticking in that ringer from "Sexual Practices of the Japanese". But if you can imagine the McGarrigles belting, you'll have some sense of how strong Hille comes on. Although she's less acerbic than the Montrealers, she's no simp, and a Christian mostly by association. A-