With her crystalline, girlish soprano, her lilting, delicate melodies, the porcelain-smooth surfaces of her folk-pop, and her occasional Evangelical Christian overtones, singer-songwriter Mindy Smith often comes across as popular music’s version of a Precious Moments figurine. What that means for Smith’s sophomore album, Long Island Shores, is that there’s an undeniable sort of technical skill on display, but that skill is used to create something that’s hard to champion as inspired, challenging art. It also means that saying precisely that is enough to make someone feel like a jackass. Nearly impossible to distinguish from the modest artistic and commercial success of her debut, One Moment More, the whole of Long Island Shores wafts through the ether as though Smith is terrified of imposing herself on anyone. Whatever limited bite Smith may have shown on her first two singles—a straightforward cover of “Jolene” from the excellent Dolly Parton tribute album, Just Because I’m A Woman, and One Moment More‘s “Come To Jesus”—has been jettisoned in favor of the gossamer major-key arrangements on by-the-numbers introspective ballads like “Edge of Love” and “Peace of Mind.” The wide-eyed innocence that pervades in her songwriting often comes off as cloying (the opening lines of “Please Stay” are “Love is a heart ache/You live, you learn it,” or simply naïve (the “How was I/Suppose to know/The devil got so damn pretty” trope of “Little Devil” has been done better thousands of times before) and never shows much growth in awareness or knowledge. With so little substance, Long Island Shores is simply pretty for the sake of being pretty.
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