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Album A Day: Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Posted on February 28, 2009 by TJ

I was first introduced to The Dresden Dolls and their quirky singer Amanda Palmer about two years ago. Yes, Virginia struck me as a terrific, albeit not easily accessible, alternative album. As a general rule I wouldn’t expect someone like Amanda Palmer to be able to carry a solo album and make it work. Her voice is strong, but her music is very abstract and tends to drone a bit without the help of Dolls’ drummer Brian Viglione (the only drummer alive who can match Travis Barker’s sheer energy and enthusiasm behind the kit). But lo, late last year Who Killed Amanda Palmer?saw the light of day, to the excitement of a rabid fanbase and assisted by a strange, Year Zero-esque viral campaign in which fans investigated the macabre singer’s murder (the tour in support for the album was billed as a formal affair, with fans coming to shows dressed for a funeral).

Who Killed Amanda Palmer? is a mixed bag. It works far better than I initially expected. In spite of the long running times for some tracks, it holds the attention in Palmer’s own unusual way. “Ampersand” shows off some of Palmer’s strongest songwriting, as well as a voice as powerful as anything she’s done on a Dresden Dolls’ record. Likewise, the jazzy instrumentals on “Leeds United” and the unique arrangements of “Guitar Hero” keep tha album from turning into a depressing droll. Palmer let’s the darkly goofy side out near the end, on a cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune “What’s The Use Of Wond’rin?” and the ironically peppy “Oasis”. These moments are good, so good that the uninteresting indulgences of opener “Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing” and “Have to Drive” are worth the time. Palmer is still far more interesting to hear on a Dresden Dolls’ album, but this solo departure remains a worthy collection of songs that few would be able to pull off as honestly and adeptly as she does.