2 Foot Yard's second album, Borrowed Arms is an album of thoughtful, complex songs that defy easy classification. The trio's members -- violinist-vocalist Carla Kihlstedt, cellist-vocalist Marika Hughes, and drummer-guitarist Shahzad Ismaily -- are known for their genre-crossing efforts in collaboration with folks such as Tom Waits, Secret Chiefs 3, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and others. Even so, this album is surprisingly song-oriented and could almost pass for "pop" in an alternate world in which Fiona Apple and Björk played the role of, say, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Call it "artful chamber-pop with cinematic overtones," or something along those lines. Both Kihlstedt (who handles most of the lead vocals) and Hughes (who handles the rest) are excellent singers, and all of them handle their instruments impeccably -- though it should be emphasized that their playing is consistently subtle and tasteful rather than flashy. Borrowed Arms features several cameos, including ones by Kihlstedt's Tin Hat Trio bandmates Rob Burger (pump organ on "Red-Rag & Pink-Flag") and Mark Orton (string arrangements on the title track and "Chapter IV"). Meanwhile, Ben Goldberg lends his klezmer-tinged clarinet playing to a couple of tracks, and Jim Campilongo adds a barbed-wire guitar solo to the opening track, "Octopus." Even so, the strength of this album is the combination of sturdy, memorable songwriting and the distinctive group sound the trio gets out of its unusual (but very natural-sounding) violin-cello-drums lineup. It's not always the case that highly talented musicians succeed at writing three- or four-minute pop (or almost-pop) songs, but here is a case where they do. ~ William York, All Music Guide
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