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Sound Check

8/21/2013

cd john-mayer-paradise-valleyJohn Mayer

‘Paradise Valley’

Columbia

I don’t necessarily “get” John Mayer’s success. “Continuum” (2006) had a decent feel to it, but since then Mayer has emerged as kind of a one-trick pony: a pretty good guitar player who’s established a penchant for breathy, half-mumbled vocals and songs with lyrics that are often so simple they would make The Wiggles roll their eyes. That’s exactly what you get from “Paradise Valley,” where Mayer remains content to pen songs whose relationship to subtlety and nuance is similar to that of a brick to the head while singing with all the passion and clarity of someone fresh from a root canal and taking frequent breaks to remind everyone that he can play guitar. Mayer takes the “verse/chorus/verse” simplicity of pop music to new levels with his patented chorus structure consisting of “(title of song)X3, (something that vaguely rhymes with title of song), (title of song again).” CV

 

CD fth181Braids

‘Flourish//Perish’

Arbutus Records

Braids has decided to go in a very interesting direction here. “Native Speaker” (2011) was an album that alienated a lot of people with its sugary, twee (dare we call it hipster) brand of pop sentimentality. Now, with “Flourish//Perish,” Braids has taken the very real gamble of alienating many of the people who bought that first album. It’s not a bad piece of work — the Canadian imports are certainly capable musicians — but this album goes in a much more stream-of-consciousness direction that eschews much of the conventional pop structures for a sound that’s more experimental, even if it is closer to the band’s true self. The result is an album that feels more organic than its debut effort but does so at the cost of a lot of what helped Braids gain its footing in the first place. It feels less like a sophomore follow-up and more like a reboot. CV

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