An Angle – We Can Breathe Under Alcohol (CD)

An Angle’s lead singer, Kris still has a Conor Oberst sound that permeates through “We Can Breathe Under Alcohol”, but the major difference, that of a solid studio band, really makes a track like “Green Water” shine. “Green Water” is completed with the inclusion of a second set of vocals, something that “A Way With Words” recreates with the inclusion of a very vocal-esque set of guitars. Casting eir vocals over the very eighties/New Romantic synth lines, “A Way With Words” finds a nice middle grounds between Robert Smith, Morrissey and Conor. The stretched-out, more contemplative style of “True Love” really makes one question why exactly such a slow track is put so near the beginning of “Under Alcohol”. 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, “True Love” seems too strung-out and plodding to make much, if any of a positive impact.

Continuing the introspective, hurt-sound of “True Love” with the melodramatic “Angry Drunk”, An Angle jumps in style to something much more akin to Devendra Banhart than Bright Eyes. Speed comes back during the hump track “White Horse”, 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 doesn’t put eir mark on the form in any meaningful way. “White Horse” still will drill its catchy melody into a listener’s head, so perhaps the track is not a complete bust. What is one of Kris’ strong suit is not necessarily the sounds that are issued from the guitar (in tracks like “Born in a Bottle”) but rather the arrangements that craft the way the music on “Under Alcohol” sounds.

Still there are some endearing bits of musicianship to be found on “Under Alcohol”, especially in the Uncle Tupelo-influenced “Competitive Love”, 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. “Under Alcohol” shows Kris growing as a master arranger, and the future cannot be brighter.

Top Tracks: White Horse, Whales Talk Whales Walk

Rating: 6.0/10

An Angle – We Can Breathe Under Alcohol / 2005 Drive-Thru / / / Reviewed 14 April 2005

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