This is the first proper solo album for Steven Page, former Barenaked Lady. He did have a side projet while he was still a BNL guy, called The Vanity project, but this comes after he left the band. As a lead songwriter for BNL, this album sounds an awful lot like a BNL album. But he does branch out a bit for better and worse, on a couple of songs. I like that the record is designed sort of like a book. And that there’s a library check out sleeve and that one of the names who checked out the “book” is Leland Palmer (ha).
“A New Shore” sounds like classic Barenaked Ladies, with a big chorus (and Page’s great voice), strings and even a whistling section. If you imagine the harmony vocals are by Ed Robertson, this could easily fit on a BNL disc. “Indecision” sounds like latter BNL with the “whoo hoos” and the way the verses really slow down the craziness of the chorus. The big difference is the female backing vocals. “Clifton Springs” opens with a ba da da section and a very catchy melody that sounds like a sitcom theme song (hey sitcoms, check this out!). It’s a mellow song that really highlights Page’s voice.
“Entourage” is a kind of dance song. It has a kind of Pet Shop Boys feel (or else I’ve been listening to the Pet Shop Boys too much). It even has a line “I only love you when I’m drunk” which echoes Pet Shop Boys’ “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk.” But I love the way Page says “Alright” at the end of the chorus and it could possibly have been a dance hit. It ends with a minute or so of a jazzy coda. “Marry Me” could also be a theme (to the new show Marry Me, duh). It’s energetic and poppy.
“All the Young Monogamists” has cello and violin and in some places, little else. It’s quite a different sound for the album, like a minor orchestral piece. It works mostly. “She’s Trying to Save Me” is a great return to the bouncy single that BNL did so well. “Over Joy” has a very sixties feel (the way Page’s voice is processed). “If You Love Me” has a very synthy 90s pop feel. I can see it being on the far end of Page’s fun zone, but I don’t really like it. When the song ramps up to the next notes around 2:50, it is excruciating. On the other end of the spectrum is “Leave Her Alone” which opens like a big band number (and stays that way in the chorus) but has verses that are very electronic.
“Queen of America” is a big bouncy song, that I wish I liked more. The final song, the five and a half-minute “The Chorus Girl” is a sad ballad (the kind that Page also writes very well). The song seems to want to be an epic (with horns an extended coda), but I think it drags on a bit too long.
Anyone who misses Page in BNL will certainly like this album. And those who are a little disappointed in the Page-less BNL newer records could easily mix half a dozen songs from this and some of the best songs from the newer BNL records into a very satisfying BNL+Page disc which would sound totally coherent.
[READ: April 25, 2014] Further Joy
This is Brandon’s first collection of short stories and I enjoyed them all quite a lot. Brandon specialized in disaffected protagonists, settled and settling in the South. And there is a nice amount of diversity in these stories.
In this story, Gardner returns to his home town after ten years of being away. he was quite a success when he left, but his return is less than exciting. He lives in small town that was big into high school football and he was glad to be away from it. But now that he is back he goes to games with his mother. The locals are happy he’s back, they think it’s great that he returned to be with his mom and to look after her. But he is miserable.
The only thing that makes the return palatable is seeing Ainsley. They dated in high school but didn’t have a bad breakup when he left. She is divorced now and single. She works in a doctor’s office and tells him stories about patients (despite it being against HIPPA–although she ever gives names). Since he is short on cash, he uses some information that she gives him to bet on an upcoming football game (he was able to figure out one of the players from the injury she described). Now the question is, could he go through with the scheme. He calls on a favor from another former friend who has never had much success. It could all go horribly wrong, of course. I really enjoyed this story a lot, and I loved the way the title played into the story unexpectedly.
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