miracle-500x500Miracle of Five

(venuszine)¬†While some of her contemporaries sit in coffee shops carving hard-wrought lyrics into spiral-bound notebooks, it isn’t difficult to imagine Eleni Mandell at the dive bar next door, nursing heartache over the Sunday paper and culling inspiration from the police blotter.

That would explain “My Twin,? a wry take on the unyielding search for a soul mate that serves as Miracle of Five’s unofficial flagship track; with flourishes both mushy and morbid, Mandell internalizes headlines of catastrophic disasters, viewing each as a possible missed connection. (Of a plane crash, she purringly queries, “Was my twin among the many? Was my twin at peace and ready?”)

So it goes throughout her latest offering, with the sexy butting up against the ominous and the euphoric. Mandell isn’t hard to pin to a genre (acoustic-pop-country-twinged-cabaret-torch-rock seems apt), she simply has at her disposal a full arsenal of familiar hooks that bend to her will. There is the jazzy-clarinet vehicle “Moonglow, Lamp Low,? the folksy-warbler “Miracle of Five,? and the understated Patsy Cline-nod “Miss Me,? all interspersed with whimsical ditties that murmur a simplistic philosophy of love.

But when paired with Mandell’s throaty, temptress voice, even the consciously saccharine “Wings in His Eyes” has a touch of the darkness that comes of being conceived at the bottom of a bottle. With “Beautiful,? Mandell uses morose seduction to polish off a collection that recommends itself not for the artist’s dramatic reinvention, but the fact that, after seven albums, Mandell is far from phoning in an iceberg analogy and calling it a day.

originally published Feb 15 2007

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