Scan the covers of Lisa Kirchner’s six albums to date and the first thing you’ll note is that her flame-colored hair grows increasingly untamed. So, too, has her musicality grown steadily bolder and wilder. Serving up her first platter of all-original material, the dusky-voiced Kirchner reaches a new apex, pairing poetry as densely atmospheric as Mitchell’s or Waits’ with melodies that reflect her longstanding cosmopolitan flair, and melding influences as varied as Brel, Brecht, Weill, Gershwin, Becker and Fagen.
Kirchner opens with “Salty and Blue (I Don’t Believe in Romance),” a sassy dismissal of moon-June songwriting tropes that sets the stage for the wide-ranging imaginativeness to follow. The dark, stormy percolation of “A Billion Stars Ago (In the Shadow of a Crow)” makes way for the chanson delicacy of “What About You?,” a misty-eyed paean to Paris which sighs and steps aside for the globetrotting “The Hudson Bay Inn,” a jaunty jumble of images worthy of Lorraine Feather.
The spirited title track sketches Kirchner’s quest for an equally madcap paramour, while the twirling “Tim” recalls a vividly mottled past relationship. Her border-blurring travels continue through “Under the Paris Moon,” while the closing “Quarters and Dimes” provides a sprightly summation of her narrative panache. All in all, Umbrellas is an exhilarating crazy quilt.