I have listened to "Master of Art" by Laura Stevenson and the Cans more than 300 times since mid-April 2011. Closer to 350, probably, if you count the number of times I've watched the song's video, where portraits in an art museum come to life and start making out. (Hot!)
The candid love song, from their latest record, Sit Resist (released last spring on Don Giovanni Records), begins simply enough, with Stevenson sweetly singing over a 1960s pop-inspired doo-wop intro of steady drumming and tambourine, but it doesn't take even a minute for it to unfold. First comes a dose of twinkling guitar. Then comes the unexpected power of Stevenson's voice, which has quickly transformed to be huge and relentlessly passionate. Even after hundreds of listens, the song has yet to not cause goose bumps.
And that's not the only gem on Sit Resist. "The Healthy One" is a wonderfully playful pop tune filled with chimes and accordion, and if it weren't for the dark lyrics about outliving everyone in your family, it'd be quite cheerful.
"Barnacles" and "8:08" feature stunning and lush orchestral folk compositions that make great use of accordion, banjo, horns, and slide guitar (played by backing band the Cans, featuring members of the defunct Long Island punk band Latterman). Elsewhere, the music sounds less ornate. The old-timey "Red Clay Roots" is a cappella, save for nearly inaudible plucks on the acoustic guitar, and "Finish Piece" is a gorgeous piano-laden ballad that showcases the strength of Stevenson's voice and the extraordinary amount of emotion she's able to pack into just a few words.
Song after song, there isn't a single weak moment on Sit Resist. Assuming you can bring yourself to stop listening to "Master of Art."