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Reviews: Popular Genius ~ how to be popular|
Posted on Saturday, November 05, 2005 @ 07:40:32 UTC
Artist: Popular Genius
CD: How to be Popular
Home: Nashville, Tennessee
Quote: "The album is predictable enough to be accessible, yet surprising in enough places to be interesting and in some places, downright fun."
By A.J. Van Beest
First the good stuff: This Nashville-based pop-band has some awesome musicians. Lead singer Andrew Bissell has an amazingly clear voice that is solidly yet creatively backed by a quartet of talented instrumentalists, including Christi Matuszak on flute, glockenspiel, and accordian, as well as her trademark saxophones.
On the group's third album, How to be Popular, this potent musical mix really hits its stride. There are a mix of musical styles throughout the album: straight-ahead pop, girl-struck crooning, a vegas-showroom-latinesque piece, and one truly energetic, up-tempo song. The album is predictable enough to be accessible, yet surprising in enough places to be interesting and in some places, downright fun. Speaking of fun, the track "Spoiler" gets 2005's award for "Most creative use of a cricket sample in a pop tune."
While I don't have any complaints about the musicianship on the album, I was a little disappointed in the overall feel of the disc. While tempos and chordal progressions vary from song to song, there's very little break from the disc's laid-back vibe. Even the up-tempo tunes like "Should've Known" and "Spoiler" have a mellow aura about them. The delightful exception to this mundane rule is (of course) the hidden track "I Want You Back."
The biggest stumbling block to my blissed-out enjoyment of this CD are the lyrics. Reading the band members' bios on their web site was not only fun, but it showed a depth of intelligence and literary playfulness that seems almost fully absent from the album's writing. Check out this lump of putty from the track "Summer Anthem:"
I really shouldn't say the things that I'm about to say
What does it matter; words are only letters strung together anyway?
It's summertime in the sky, the sun is high ...
I can't believe I've got a friend by you; Why do you always never tie your shoes?
Yeah, OK, so, ummmmm, huh. Thankfully, the words, if not the thoughts behind them, get a little more sophisticated in the middle of the song with a brief double-time quasi-rap:
If I could pitch a script, or write a really catchy tune,
and I could quit the coffeeshop and sing through the afternoon
doing nothing, every day getting paid to waste away,
I'm gonna start the revolution that will only last a day ...
Still not great, but better.
Listen up, Popular Genius, here's my advice, "my two steps to glory" plan, straight from the top of the Heartland: Keep up the great work with your music. Spend as much time on your lyrics as you obviously do on your musicianship. Rinse and repeat.
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