Marta Pacek: Voodoo Dolls & False Alarms

- If you’re aiming at being a country chanteuse with haunting echoes of folk, and you look halfway like Nancy Sinatra and halfway like Joni Mitchell, well, that’s not exactly going to work against you, is it? Hailing from the outskirts of Canberra, Marta Pacek is an all points alert for a woman matching that description and, with her hair done a certain way, looks a bit like Zooey Deschanel, too.

There are folks who’ve made careers on less, but it wouldn’t hurt if Pacek was a fraction as talented as any of them. I’m sorry to break it to you but she doesn’t really sound like that, but her bright, ever so slightly nasal, pop twang does remind me, more or less, of Dolly Parton, so that’s good. A voice is not the only thing which Pacek has in common with Ms. Parton. I don’t know how well Marta’s records sell in Tamworth, but without being Kellie Pickler she makes a sound that involves substantially more of what most interstate truckers would identify as ‘country’ than most alt-country artists. I don’t know if Marta Pacek is on too many radars, she certainly isn’t burning up Hypetrak, but I think she might have a fair shot at a Kasey Chambers level of success and staying in most of the critic’s good books at the same time. Bet Kasey wishes she could have done that.

Maybe Kasey is the wrong comparison to make. Interestingly, Marta began her career co-writing with a gent I consider to be one of Australia’s finest song-writers: Hunters & Collectors’ Mark Seymour. His easy-going approach to rock and Australiana produced some of the nation’s most justifiably lauded classics, and, it’s easy to hear a kindred spirit in Marta, though her passions are country and folk instead.

I say that, but all the promotion leading up to the release of her new record has been doing its damndest to convince the public that Marta is alt-folk, or, now, neo-folk, even using electronic beats, but certainly ‘stepping back from country.’ Whatever, I don’t know which folkies Marta’s been listening to, but this still sounds pretty country to me. To my mind it's mis-marketing too: ain’t no indie-folk kid going to appreciate getting duped into listening to country. The drum machine, what’s with that? I can think of very few country artists that successfully make that work and in folk it’s a tough ask if you’re not one of the lucky few folktronic types that doesn’t make everyone want to vomit. Leonard Cohen got away with a genuine folk / drum machine blend, but there is only one Leonard Cohen.

Pacek’s single, Nothing’s Going On is archetypal of this record: it begins with some anemic electronic beat that the blurb describes, a little hilariously, as hip hop, before launching into a lush and fully orchestrated country classic of love that’s wrong.

None of the downsides matter however, because it’s a great track, the imperfections of which are irrelevant. To anyone who isn’t a died-in-the-wool cowboy, this is country and when listened to as such, it and this whole album is a fine listen.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Voodoo Dolls & False Alarms
Artist: Marta Pacek
Record Label: (Indie)