Opening with a crescendo of sound that’s like the contents of a junk drawer crashing to the floor, Harpooner, the fourth album from NYC-based singer-songwriter Paul Brill, gives a first impression that it might play out as some Matmos-style avant-garde noise-pop. Instead, the album’s first song, “Consanguine,” quickly strong-arms the chaotic sounds into something that’s recognizable as the percussion track for a meticulously composed modern folk song. Indeed, the whole of Harpooner makes exceptional, smart use of electronic effects and “found” sound elements—there’s a telling credit for “all things beaten and broken”—to provide appropriately twitchy backdrops for Brill’s confessional lyrics, which convey a fully-realized disaffect. He’s a solid lyricist (“I Take It Back” opens with, “I apologize for the face that I made/When you said that he died,” to choose just one of the more obvious go-to lines), and the overarching melancholy and desperation of standouts like the title track and “All You’ll Want” give the album the kind of thematic coherence that’s been missing in so many of the year’s releases. That said, it’s the inspired technologically-enhanced production that sells Harpooner. To that end, it’s hardly a dig against Brill or Harpooner that the album recalls smaller-scale, less obtuse versions of John Vanderslice’s Pixel Revolt or Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump.
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