Aural Elixir, “Better” (Independent)

Nearly two decades on, Jesse Maclaine is the sole remaining member of the Colorado-based jazz-folk band Aural Elixir. Their latest release serves as a showcase for the act’s main draw: Maclaine’s powerhouse vocals.


The de facto leader of this trio can’t help but bring to mind standard bearers of the ’90s coffee shop sound—angry and vulnerable mystics like Alanis and Fiona who shouted prayers over their own forceful piano hammering—as she belts in a way that would lift the roof off of any espresso hole that hosted her.

That being said, Maclaine and the rest of Elixir are a little too in love with cheekiness to occupy the same sphere as those latter-day Liliths. A little levity doesn’t hurt, but tracks like “I Like Coffee!” are little more than T-shirt slogans stretched over three and a half minutes. Sandwiched between anthems of escape like “A Way Away” and the affirmational “Perhaps,” it can’t help but have the opposite effect of the band’s favorite brew.

While Maclaine doesn’t possess the same gift for wordplay as the artists she references, the straightforward cuts like the title track and album closer “When Will I See You Again?” show the power of simple statements said with conviction.