If only Liz Janes could figure out whether she wanted to be Lou Reed, Mavis Staples (her claimed ideal) or the headliner at the county fair. Poison & Snakes is a remarkable achievement; not only is it her second on Sufjan Stevens’s Asthmatic Kitty label, but it features an eclectic mix of country-folk, gospel and whatever bizarre genre Mirah falls under, thanks in part to members of Pinback, Rocket from the Crypt, Black Heart Procession and Castanets. Not that name-dropping is important in this case — the music could easily carry its own weight.
Not nearly as vocally delicate as label mate Stevens, Janes could have one hell of a record on her hands were she to control the wavering devil that seems to finally escape her throat on the sixth track, “Vine.” This is more literal than one would think, though. Upon the close of “Vine,” Poison takes a turn that makes the record — dare I say it — less exciting. All the percussion, jazz and straight experimentation are gone, and you’re left listening to one song that feels longer than the last, wondering when these last four pretty but unmemorable tracks are going to end. It’s then when you think to yourself, Maybe frantic isn’t such a bad style after all.