I really like old-school Dashboard Confessional. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most was the maximum amount of emotion you could put into an album before it became maudlin; the rest of his discography would bear testament to that. But Places is the perfect combination of raw vocals, skilled guitarwork, powerful melodies and weighty lyrics. I still listen to it, ten years later.
Cady Groves’ The Life of a Pirate has a lot of similarities to Carrabba’s work. Cady has a similar guitar style (although not as raw or as hard – CC was terrible to his guitar strings in the early days), an honest voice and striking melodies. Her lyrical quality isn’t up to Dashboard standards, but it’s easily enough ignored. Just sing “oh” and you won’t even notice.
And these are singalong songs; they aren’t burdened with any tricks or gimmicks. This is songwriting the way I like it: spare and unadorned. There’s nowhere for Groves to hide in these songs, and – thankfully – she doesn’t need to cover her songwriting in layers of junk. It’s solid the way it is.
“Or Else” is an extremely emotive piece that has several ear-catching vocal melodies; “I’m Still Here” makes me wonder if a female version of Jason Mraz would be as loved by male fans as the real Mr. A-Z is by females (for the record: I think yes). “The Life of a Pirate” starts out with pensive sea noises – as opposed to beach-party noise – and never lets the mood of the beach go. It’s a gorgeous song, and it doesn’t feel forced in the least.
If you like singing along to acoustic pop with an open heart and solid melodies, you’re going to enjoy Cady Groves. Her songwriting is clear, bright and infectious. Recommended.
Pull a Star Trip’s E-vasion Inn is one of the more ambitious acoustic projects I’ve heard in a while. Instead of being content to be an acoustic guitar-fronted band singing pretty songs, they set out to fill their songs with memorable touches: background screaming, songs in other languages, electronic beats and more. For the most part, it works.
The base sound isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. The members of Pull a Star Trip strum their acoustic guitar a lot, stick drums/bass behind it and augment with strings. They sing loudly and passionately, occasionally sacrificing tunefulness for impassioned cries (a la Places You Have Come to Fear the Most-era Dashboard Confessional, which is a compliment). The songs are all worthy of singing along, and some are even worthy of headbanging.
On top of this tried and true base, they layer their personality. The screaming is the most recognizable bit. They do have the sense to always keep it at the same monitor level as background vocals; it’s never in your face. That’s good, because it’s straight-up hardcore/metal raspy screaming. It’s used to good effect in the dramatic “My Last Wish Shall Be a Time Machine,” but in the Jason Mraz-esque “Co-driver,” it just feels really off. By the end of the album, I’d heard it so much that it pretty much registered as static and not as a meaningful element any more.
“Senal” is their offering in another language, and it’s a lush, gorgeous tune. The strings, piano, and electronic elements implemented work together excellently, and the hushed vocals only intensify the mood. The fact that it’s in a cryptic (and therefore, intriguing) language makes it even more fascinating. They do break back into English for the chorus, and that chorus is the best one of the album, as it makes great use of melody and rhythm. “Senal” is definitely one of the most memorable tracks, even though it’s incredibly challenging to sing along with (as you might imagine).”Los Rojiblancos” is in yet another language, and its rattling, consistent Spanish groove and excellent trumpet work creates another winner.
The majority of the album passes in a propulsive yet still breezy mood. If any number of pop/rock bands busted out their acoustic chops more (Boys Like Girls, We the Kings, Yellowcard, etc) but did it with legitimacy and not as a cheap ploy, it would sound similar. As it stands, the sound is similar enough to stuff that’s on the radio to be immediately accessible but different enough to be immediately embraced and enjoyed with out guilt. The large emphasis on strings should make fans of Yellowcard sit up and take notice, while the emphasis on fast, breezy but still intense songs should make fans of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin sign on.
This album is highly recommended for fans of modern pop/rock. It will fit nicely in your collection while filling a space that’s been abandoned since Dashboard Confessional abdicated their spot as kings of acoustic rocking (and, no matter what they say, the Honorary Title is not taking the crown).