The wallflower in the midst of friends and colleagues, but always truly alone and separate: Edith Frost understands this person. On one level, that’s because she garners obvious comparisons to other female singer-songwriters — a confident similarity to Liz Phair in the vocals; a curious resemblance to Lida Husik in her love of bells and whistles, of instrumental filigree; a kinship with Lois Maffeo, sharing the modest refusal of categorization. On another level, she simply articulates what the wallflower would say if she could be heard through the social chatter.
On her third full-length, Wonder Wonder, with the comically stately pace of songs like “Cars And Parties” and the title track — the sound of Mo Tucker overcoming her shyness and shoving Lou Reed away from the microphone — Frost dances to an odd time signature and grabs the attention she deserves. Quavering only slightly, she keeps it with the delicate torching of “True”, the closing-time honky-tonk of “Further”, the muted rich balladry of “Hear My Heart”.
Frost’s unpolished but beautifully tuneful voice elegantly shifts through the stylistic changes, which in turn are effortlessly navigated by Chicago-area players including Rick Rizzo and Archer Prewitt. Both producer Rian Murphy and uber-engineer Steve Albini show restraint, keeping the mix almost aridly clear.
Wonder Wonder doesn’t deviate from the intricate austerity Frost has made a kind of trademark, but that’s the point. The natural misfit doesn’t burst from the shell; she cracks it open and comes out slowly, and exquisitely, with all her idiosyncrasies intact.