Monday, March 5, 2012
Album review: In the Bright Rain by Crushed Stars
The album from mastermind Todd Gautreau too closely resembles his prior record.
Todd Gautreau’s new album seems to contain every component of his 2010 release, Convalescing in Braille, with little to be gained. Crushed Stars’ spring 2011 record, In the Bright Rain, is supported by Gautreau’s signature monotonous vocals and his relentless instrumentation. It will be released March 6.
Yet again, Gautreau did most of the heavy lifting — recording almost of the instrumentation himself — bringing in Jeff Ryan (St. Vincent, Sarah Jaffe) on percussion, Howard Draper (Okkervil River) on organ and piano, and Buffi Jacobs (The Polyphonic Spree) on the cello. The added instruments bring much-needed color to the bleak record, interjecting perky moments throughout.
The deeper you get into the record, the closer his vocals get to that of the Nationals’ Matt Berninger. Their baritones make telling a lyrical story harder, requiring more inflection and feeling in every word. Gautreau falls short of this need, at times even sinking behind the upbeat keys or gliding cello solo. The stuttering percussion in “Copenhagen” shows this struggle by the stealing the spotlight. The songs blend into one singular message of dreary days only to be interrupted by distinct instrumental segments.
“Color Kites” helps break up this gloomy story, bringing in the graceful cello and a set of tinkling bells to lighten things up. Although the cello doesn’t kick in until the one-minute mark, the track is carried by this fitting stringed accompaniment. The organic blend of these instruments sets this song apart from the rest of the album, delivering much-needed fluidity.
Gautreau took a stab at “House on Haunted Hill,” which was originally written by British singer Epic Soundtracks but was never fully recorded due to his untimely death in 1997. It’s obvious that this is a cover. The keys add clarity to his murky sound, and the melody is given the gusto it deserves.
Gautreau’s artistry and passion are apparant in each of his records, but there’s not enough variance to show growth or new discoveries. Longtime fans will need this exchange in order to keep the relationship exciting and fresh, and In the Bright Rain just doesn’t bring that to the table.