Starlight Cicada is the name under which singer/songwriter Elizabeth Taillon records and performs. This is her first EP for Lorem Ipsum Recordings, and it’s a remarkable debut. On “The Mansion Demos,” in a clear and commanding voice that’s as unique and haunting as the sound of the insect she’s named for, Taillon pines for simpler times long gone, aches for loves lost and wrestles with what is and what could be. Never has inner turmoil sounded so outwardly lovely.

The circumstances under which the EP was recorded call to mind Johnny Cash’s first “American Recordings” album, much of which was recorded in producer Rick Rubin’s living room. That same kind of intimacy is at work on “The Mansion Demos.” The liner notes don’t tell us much other than the fact that the EP was recorded in a mansion in Portland, but the image this conjures up is a powerful one: Taillon, alone in a cavernous room save for her guitar and one microphone, singing and quietly strumming to no one in particular except for old ghosts in dusty hallways.

It’s the perfect backdrop for these starkly beautiful songs, all of them equal parts love letter, declaratory statement of intent, and confession. Producer and Lorem Ipsum label founder Erik Neilson wisely lets the songs speak for themselves.

Production is minimal, save for a touch of reverb on Taillon’s voice and cleanly strummed electric guitar. And for the most part, these are the only sounds one hears over the course of five songs (though if one listens closely enough, the occasional creaking door or floorboard can be heard as well, almost as if the mansion itself wants to have a say, too). This is exactly as it should be, since this is a lyrically and vocally driven record.

In a voice that sounds a little like a slightly less ethereal (and a lot less cloying) Sarah McLachlan, Taillon croons her way through one devastating lyric after another. On “Green and Grey,” she reminisces about some time spent with an old lover when they “locked hands and exchanged some secrets.” But the song takes a darker turn a few lines later when she declares that she’ll shed a tear on her ex-lover’s wedding day because “jealousy isn’t quiet … I gave you my body, and you buried it.”

In “Selfish,” she laments being “alone and broken hearted … miles away from home,” missing a long lost love, but resigning herself to the fact that said lover has chosen a different path, with the simple but painful declaration that “love is selfish.”

The album climaxes with the stunning “Empty Can’t Give,” with Taillon observing that, through all of life’s trials, “It’s nice to feel you’ve got a hand to hold … but what happens when you’re alone?”

The question remains unanswered, leaving listeners with just their own thoughts and the hypnotic strum of Taillon’s guitar as a backdrop to contemplate the question for themselves.

The title implies that these songs are rough drafts or works in progress, but it’s hard to imagine how Starlight Cicada or producer Erik Neilson could make them any better. Instrumentally sparse but emotionally raw, these songs are virtually flawless.

Indeed, if there’s any flaw in the EP at all, it’s the fact that it’s way too short!

Hopefully, Taillon is hard at work on a full-length follow-up. Still, as a little taste of what may be yet to come, this EP works perfectly. Usually, people talk about haunted mansions. But in this case, the opposite is true. The emotional ghosts conjured up in the songs of Starlight Cicada will continue to haunt you long after the last note has faded out.

Stream and download the EP at, and check in with Starlight Cicada at her Facebook page: Catch her live at the Oak and Ax in Biddeford on Friday. Find more info at

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

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