Romantica It's Your Weakness That I Want
Love letters often read better after they've been torn to pieces. Truman Capote once wrote about the paper strips one can find in a spurned lover's garbage--words like remember and miss you and goddamn and lonesome languishing at the bottom of the bin. Sometimes it sounds like Ben Kyle has salvaged those amorous snippets and pasted them together into lyrics, selecting only the phrases that seem too epic to rot among the fish bones, coffee grounds, and cigarette butts. In the local crooner's songs, every smell is a fragrance, streets are boulevards, and charlatan is what you call a dude who makes out in the back of the movie theater. Still, when our grandiloquent orator spills his prose onto the page for a girl, she scolds, "Your own attempts at modern verse/Lack all the romance of an Irish curse." I'll bet even Kyle could respond to that line in one simple word: Huh?
A lover of Oscar Wilde quotes and girls who look like Shakespeare's tragic heroines, Kyle is nothing if not a romantic--though his band's casual Americana probably offsets his dramatic flair. Even while multi-instrumentalist Luke Jacobs thanks his "thought-provoking Kierkegaardian colleagues" in Romantica's liner notes, his jangly bass guitar doesn't just evoke alt-country's cold post-grad commentary on classic country; it chatters and moans like a Turf Club barfly while Mark Hedlund chimes in with subtle percussion.
The three starry-eyed musicians trade their signature twang for a piano ballad on "Belfast," in which Kyle returns to his titular hometown only to realize that "absence makes the heart grow colder." But on "There She Goes," Jacobs and Hedlund peacock their upbeat folk-pop while Kyle's gentle Irish drawl turns their Americana into something more than the sound of the States. Ba ba ba he sings, leading his black sheep behind him. It may not be "I love you," but for this tongue-tangled romantic, it'll do.
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