Hello, Doll

CD Who Killed Amanda Palmer By Amanda Palmer (Roadrunner Records, $18)

The age of fat big-label contracts is over, and good riddance: It means that while homegrown pop miracle Palmer may have an international following, she won’t be tempted to trade her punk cabaret for mainstream banality. Her latest album, in fact, symbolically affirms her willingness to stand alone: It’s a solo effort, her first ever.

Palmer conceived the project as a low-tech collection of piano bar hits—until her newest fan, Ben Folds, signed on as producer and converted it into a full-blown, massively orchestrated sonic wall, complete with special guests like Elton John collaborator Paul Buckmaster. Her signature confident piano work is now backed with showtune effects, and the sound is Palmer at her fanciest (which, for a woman who wears Marie Antoinette cutaway dresses, is saying something).

The songs themselves remain all Palmer, with taboo-laden stories—hate/love affairs, school shootings—and dramatic delivery. And yet, Dresden Dolls fans may be left wanting a bit more. Without drummer Brian Viglione, these tunes are hauntingly beautiful but missing that certain kick, crash, and slam that perches Palmer’s music so satisfyingly on the edge of insanity.