An Angleâ€™s lead singer, Kris still has a Conor Oberst sound that permeates through â€œWe Can Breathe Under Alcoholâ€, but the major difference, that of a solid studio band, really makes a track like â€œGreen Waterâ€ shine. â€œGreen Waterâ€ is completed with the inclusion of a second set of vocals, something that â€œA Way With Wordsâ€ recreates with the inclusion of a very vocal-esque set of guitars. Casting eir vocals over the very eighties/New Romantic synth lines, â€œA Way With Wordsâ€ finds a nice middle grounds between Robert Smith, Morrissey and Conor. The stretched-out, more contemplative style of â€œTrue Loveâ€ really makes one question why exactly such a slow track is put so near the beginning of â€œUnder Alcoholâ€. While the track is expertly crafted, the tone of this track is not as much of a gateway into faster fare as it is the beginning to an end. With six tracks following, â€œTrue Loveâ€ seems too strung-out and plodding to make much, if any of a positive impact.
Continuing the introspective, hurt-sound of â€œTrue Loveâ€ with the melodramatic â€œAngry Drunkâ€, An Angle jumps in style to something much more akin to Devendra Banhart than Bright Eyes. Speed comes back during the hump track â€œWhite Horseâ€, but the Weezer-influenced track really suffers to create for itself a purpose for existing. Sure, the track may be cast in the same style of singer-songwriter rock that has worked for people like Matt Nathanson and John Maher for years, but Kris really doesnâ€™t put eir mark on the form in any meaningful way. â€œWhite Horseâ€ still will drill its catchy melody into a listenerâ€™s head, so perhaps the track is not a complete bust. What is one of Krisâ€™ strong suit is not necessarily the sounds that are issued from the guitar (in tracks like â€œBorn in a Bottleâ€) but rather the arrangements that craft the way the music on â€œUnder Alcoholâ€ sounds.
Still there are some endearing bits of musicianship to be found on â€œUnder Alcoholâ€, especially in the Uncle Tupelo-influenced â€œCompetitive Loveâ€, in which a slide guitar is the star of the track, capturing most compellingly the emotion that the almost-monotone vocals of Kris fail to do during the track. Kris does a few things that distance eir from Conor, which was a key complaint levied against the previous An Angle album. â€œUnder Alcoholâ€ shows Kris growing as a master arranger, and the future cannot be brighter.
Top Tracks: White Horse, Whales Talk Whales Walk
An Angle â€“ We Can Breathe Under Alcohol / 2005 Drive-Thru / http://www.ananglemusic.com / http://www.drivethrurecords.com / Reviewed 14 April 2005