Arriving two years after A Fine Frenzy’s Virgin Records debut One Cell in the Sea, Bomb in a Birdcage finds sole band member Alison Sudol subtly tweaking the formula from 2007’s lush, lilting Cell. Surprising, she’s at her strongest here when her youthful whimsy retreats, supplanted by a lovely, understated sweetness. It’s hard not to smile during the effortless, handclap-aided acoustic album opener “What I Wouldn’t Do,” or find yourself swept up in the stirring, multi-tracked turbulence of “Elements.”
Elsewhere, melancholic ballads “Happier” and “Swan Song” establish that few wield a wistful verse quite like Sudol can, while “Bird of the Summer” and “The Beacon” perfectly illustrate her accomplished storytelling. Though songs like “New Heights” and “The World Without” don’t offer much in terms of progression, Bomb is a refreshingly relaxed and surprisingly assured sophomore effort.