Burn and Shiver
zure Ray use typically electronic backdrops, with sometimes acoustic accompaniment, to create songs of an emotionally claustrophobic bent. Rarely their songs are exceptionally good, oftentimes they are simply aural wallpaper that run together, and even more rarely than the exceptional songs they fail completely. This is an album that you will want to buy if you support woman with electronics, the indie meets electronic genre that is emerging, the singer/songwriter genre, or if you enjoy debut albums in which the artist is still trying to define their particular style.
Some of the songs are exceptional. “Favorite Cities” rides a melodic loop and a rhythm built from a flickering light digital beat. The chorus is rounded out by a capably played trumpet. “The New Year” features a chorus built out of strings seemingly plucked from an Edgar Varese piece, but the conflict that builds up is quickly dispelled by the vocals and background music that stabilize the song. “While I’m Still Young” sounds like something Neil Young would be able to do, if he were still relevant. And, you know, had a lilting female voice.
A large portion of these songs, however, could easily be played at a dinner party and be easily ignored. It’s not that they are bad songs- it’s that they are unremarkable and act as one long song that seemingly never ends. See, the problem that the group encounters is that they are almost too fey. Fragility is a careful line to tread- lest you fall into cliché. And it’s not that the group falls into cliché, either lyrically or musically- but the whole exercise of the group taking the singer songwriter genre into the digital age and using the same elements in a new, yet completely same sounding way, that falls into cliché. If you’re going to use the same genre that has been abused and revived so many times before, it would be nice to see something new and original done with it. It is perhaps a case of the old man being dressed up in new clothing and dropped off at high school. He’s still an old man- and he’s still going to have the same old stories to bore you with. And you’re still not going to want to listen to his stories after a while, save a few choice ones.
If done right, this sort of songwriting aesthetic- sweet electronic backing, gently plucked guitar melodies, and occasionally a curveball thrown into the mix- could become something beautiful and affecting. For now, however, Azure Ray has crafted an entirely mediocre album that hints at a greatness that may lie beneath. When they fulfill on this promise, be sure and call me. I’ll be the first to jump on their bandwagon.