I quickly got obsessed with this album to a degree that I haven't done in years. (The last album with which I got anywhere near so obsessed was Green Day's American Idiot.) I listened to it at least once a day for several months, sometimes multiple times a day. And instead of abruptly dropping out of the rotation like some albums (it's sort of like my brain is done with them and doesn't crave it any more), I still listen to it three or four times a week.
The problem with this level of obsessional listening is that it's hard to tell if it's actually good or if it's just the obsession speaking. However, I've given the album to some people as gifts, over the past few months, and they like it too. So I feel validated. Go me!
A Fine Frenzy is effectively Alison Sudol plus backup instrumentalists. She sings and plays the piano, both very well, and writes all her own songs (as far as I know). She's got a voice that can go from low and husky to high and clear, and she knows how to write songs that fit her voice. She writes strongly emotional songs and catchy tunes (sometimes at the same time). The songs aren't treacly; many of them are about relationships, but most of those are about failed or failing, or just plain didn't-happen, relationships (like "Almost Lover" and "Ashes and Wine", the latter of which is my current favorite).
There are some songs from the album (notably "Rangers"), which just get stuck in my head, but which I still don't know how to interpret. Is it just a catchy tune with obscure lyrics, or is she making literary references I don't get? I still don't know.
Apparently Alison Sudol has been tagged with the "red-headed piano player = Tori Amos" meme, which is bizarre since I don't feel like there's a lot of overlap, other than the relatively superficial facts that they're both female piano players/songwriters who have red hair. But then again, I like both of them, so maybe I'm just not seeing it.
I am slightly annoyed by the album cover (go look on Amazon), and wonder how much of that was Sudol herself and how much was the record company. I think it's clear that they are trying to market her as a Little Redheaded Girl, which annoys me. (I expressed this to my wife, and she said "What's your problem? You like redheads." I replied "I like redheaded women, thank you very much.")
I strongly recommend this album. But on the off chance that you have the same obsessional reaction I did, don't say I didn't warn you.