There is always a hint of menace and reservoirs of force haunting the corners of Eliza Rickman’s voice, whatever register it occupies. Her presence on stage—whether she wears flowers in her hair, or stuffed birds; whether she plays a toy piano or a grand piano—is an enveloping, soft darkness, impossible to ignore. It is quite a surprise that Rickman didn’t even realize she could sing until after she earned a degree in orchestration from Azusa Pacific University, because her voice is the most enthralling and salient feature of any on the tracks from her new album 'O, You Sinners'. And this is saying something, considering her deftness as a pianist and her subtlety as a composer. Like Kate Bush's work, or like PJ Harvey’s album White Chalk, the arrangements on O, You Sinners are edged with dissonance. Like Andrew Bird, she favors pizzicato strings over junkyard percussion and complex lyrical melodies. Indeed, Rickman’s co-producer Mark Greenberg is a frequent contributor to Bird’s albums (as well as to Wilco’s 'The Whole Love' and to the Grammy Award-winning Mavis Staples’s album 'You Are Not Alone').
Religious themes pervade Rickman’s work—her album is, after all, titled 'O, You Sinners'. She is the daughter of a pastor, and started playing piano in church at the age of 13. But like one of her great influences- Nick Cave- her writing belies ambivalence about religion. Good and evil; love, both God’s love and carnal love; sinners and saints; desire and repentance, all find a place in Rickman’s songs. They lurk behind the scrim- whatever stage she sets. The coin of her realm is stamped with the will of God, and whether you are a doubter or a believer you must deal in her currency if you want her to ferry you ashore. “O, you sinners” she sings, “hear me.” And how could we not listen?