Natalie Huggins has worn a few hats around St. Louis' music community: She's been a keyboardist for a late-period Bureau lineup, a guest vocalist with Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra, a talent booker and a music educator. With Wax Wine, Huggins and her piano take center stage, leading an orchestral-pop trio that features Liz Myers on cello and her husband Greg Myers offering light kit work. Conservatory rock is nothing new, but the trick that Wax Wine pulls off well is to marry technique with emotion — and emotion tends to tip the scales on these tunes. "Mole" takes the pretty conventional tale of a stunted relationship to dramatic heights thanks to a turgid arrangement; lyrically, the song could lend itself to a punk-rock kiss-off. Here, it feels weighed down. Romantic disappointment gets a lighter touch on "The Bells and the Boys," with the titular bells and a punctuated cello counterpoint to give lift to Huggins' clear, airy vocals. The ringing celeste that drives "Lost" may be reminiscent of a fairy tale, but the earthy, resonant cello lines and nonstop percussion take the song someplace darker. That dynamic presents an essential tension for these songs, which highlight a bare lyrical soul wrapped in classical finery.
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