Influences often come through cultural osmosis. You may not even know who’s inspired you until someone points out the connection. As I listened to Taller Children, the debut from Elizabeth and the Catapult, I immediately thought of Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield, and – take a deep breath - Karen Carpenter. Before you wince consider that fact that, although you may not have like The Carpenter’s material (and maybe you did), Karen Carpenter possessed a marvelous voice. So when I listened to WYEP’s in-studio interview with Elizabeth and the Catapult, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Ms. Elizabeth Ziman has already heard the comparisons. Although she wasn’t familiar with Karen Carpenter or Burt Bacharach, but she has come to embrace the similarities.
For a debut release, Taller Children is surprisingly sophisticated; incorporating jazzy riffs, pop hooks, folk, and neo-baroque elements, its immediately clear that this isn’t you’re typical pop release, and the best part of it all is Elizabeth Ziman. It is rare to come across a voice as clear and sweet as Ziman’s, and she is a fabulous songwriter. The music is addictively catchy and the lyrics are smart, funny, and ironic. The album’s reoccurring theme is maturity or the lack of it, whether it is individual or universal responsibility. Ziman revealed during her WYEP interview that “Taller Children” was inspired by the current economic crisis. “Mama’s Boy” chastises a man who expects his girlfriend to be a stand in for Mom. The clever “Complimentary Me” explores controlling behaviors that drive away the very things we intend to make ours. The one cover song, Leonard Cohen’s biting “Everybody Knows,” fits the theme.
Taller Children was produced by Mike Mogis, who’s previous work has been with Bright Eyes and M. Ward. While that work brought out the raw elements of the artists, here he helps tie the music together into a cohesive project. Several of the songs on the album were taken from demos the trio had recorded in drummer Dan Molad’s bedroom 4 years ago. The band had lived with for so long that it was beneficial to have an outside perspective on what could be done with them. As for the new material, Ziman, Molad and guitarist Pete Lelish have a good handle on what works for them. I hope they continue to channel the many cultural influences available to them.