Sunday, October 3, 2010

Colleen and Paul - Colleen and Paul

Colleen and Paul

Colleen and Paul
Boompa Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%

Duos that allow their first names to double as their band name usually fall prey to a series of stereotypes that sketch a well-meaning-but-hopelessly-square folk outfit. If that misguided sentiment is mine alone, I’ll work on it, but my first listen to ‘Mermaids and Surfer Girls’ fit right into that typecast of cutesy folk singers who pride themselves on idiosyncratic lyrics about mermaids and aliens. What turns out to be Colleen and Paul’s fluffiest moment just happened to be my first impression and, needless to say, the song nearly upended my relationship with this debut. It would’ve been a serious shame, as the bulk of Colleen and Paul’s songs contrast their lighthearted approach with peppy compositions that leave melancholic edges for us to cut ourselves on. Don’t worry, it won’t bleed… but it’ll help you relive those times you did.

A good deal of Colleen and Paul’s material touches on relationships, their tumultuous nature and the silly ways we distract ourselves from facing them, so it’s hardly a surprise that Colleen and Paul skips between vague state-of-the-union appeals (‘Please Be Kind’) and disconnected daydreams (‘Ladybug Song’). Regardless of their lyrical content, Colleen Hixenbaugh (of By Divine Right) and Paul Linklater (of the Pinecones) arrange each song to feel carefree first and wistful later. The longingly finger-picked opener ‘Crepe Suzette’ establishes this soft sadness as pleasant and unavoidable; it’s how this nonchalance plays organically into the sharper ‘Shouldn’t I Breathe’ and ‘Lullabye For the T.W.’ that removes almost any trace of occasional triteness. Yeah, even ‘Mermaids and Surfer Girls’ is easier to stomach.

So how did I maneuver from that eye-rolling false impression to a clearer understanding of Colleen and Paul’s obvious talent? Nothing more than a stroll on a clear autumn’s day when the duo’s record unexpectedly registered for what it is: a sweet collection of modern folk that isn’t square at all.

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