Tom Breihan’s praise for Gowns’ performance of “Cherylee” at this year’s CMJ Music Marathon was one of the very few pieces of writing from what was generally agreed to be an off year for the fest that actually made me want to check out a band I’d not heard of (which was, you know, the whole point). If the Village Voice’s resident hip hop fanatic was that moved by a fractured art-folk trio, then it might be worth a listen or ten. The song starts in a depressive fog, with singer Erika Anderson’s vocals rendered virtually inaudible by a sub-field recording level fidelity. All we have to cling to for nearly two minutes is a limping beat and the ghost of a piano ballad. The haze thins a bit then, the piano gets some courage. It’s another minute and thirty seconds before we hear Anderson’s voice unmuffled.[more:] She sounds broken and sick, but given the desolate minimalism that’s come before, it’s a minor shock that her words should be carried by such a modest and immediate tune. Every troubled line is echoed by a warped lo-fi version, as if they were she were still struggling to whisper them despite the inner buzz of crippling self-doubt. When another voice joins her (I presume it’s bandmate Ezra Buchla, but I’m not totally sure), its a sure goosebump generator. The nagging shadow isn’t gone completely, but the second spotlight has faded it significantly.