Tiny Vipers

Hands Across the Void (Sub Pop)

Tiny Vipers is the nom de indie-folk of Seattle songstress Jesy Fortino, and the seven austere numbers on her debut full-length live up to the moniker. Fashioned mostly from her vocals and her rudimentary, minor-chord acoustic strumming, the tracks seem unassuming at first, but once you listen closer they totally slay. Fortino's voice isn't pretty, but it's pretty damn compelling. Similar to Kristin Hersh, her delivery is husky, raw, and prone to cracking, and her idiosyncrasies and emotional heft can absolutely stop you in your tracks. That happens from the start: Somber, hymn-like opener “Campfire Resemblance,” in which the singer harmonizes with herself, resembles a prayer session on some doomed vessel. Moving forward, plenty more spine-chilling moments unfurl: In “Shipwreck,” Fortino sings of loneliness as “the storm that casts you overboard into ocean's cold,” plunging into and repeating that last word with the shaded agony of a stunned widow. In the elegiac, 11-minute tour de force “Swastika,” she maintains a mighty woefulness that's hauntingly reminiscent of Kurt Cobain's take on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” Hands Across the Void is a perfectly devastating, and devastatingly perfect, album.

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