Record Review - 1 December 02 2004

Normally, we might overlook a modest indie EP such as this, but in the case of Alexi Murdoch, it’s hard to ignore Four Songs. The staunchly independent artist, who has reportedly turned down any sort of major label interest, is self-releasing the collection as he tours the country. So far the plan seems to have worked to his advantage because the disc is selling steadily and several of the songs have received national exposure on TV shows “The O.C.” and “Dawson’s Creek,” as well as the film Garden State.

The collection boasts four of the most enthralling contemporary folk tunes in recent memory. Thankfully unadorned by flashy production tricks and over-the-top acoustics, the bare-bones affair features a chilling recording of the London-born, Scottish-bred, California-based musician and works because it’s so simple. “It’s Only Fear” has obvious Nick Drake leanings, but Murdoch’s lilting delivery and positive core recalls the hushed, urgent intimacy of Donovan in his mid-’60s prime.

“Orange Sky,” heard on the teen-angst drama “The O.C.,” is the standout cut here, and Murdoch delivers it in a deliberately languid pace, delicious in its serpentine anticipation and simplistic chant. His lilting accent is an additional instrument on the ponderous and slowly reassuring “Blue Mind.” The final selection, the deceptively effortless “Song For You,” recalls the baroque early ’70s British folk movement with its airy facade and gently orchestrated arrangement. Overall, the collection is a pleasant diversion from the bombastic over-production of most of today’s tepid fare and serves as a great introduction to a compelling new performer. — Lee Valentine Smith

Alexi Murdoch plays 7 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 2 in the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar, $7; and Fri., Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. for a free in-store appearance at Criminal Records.