Sunday, September 7, 2008

[SSv] Review: Joseph Arthur - Foreign Girls

No one will ever accuse Akron, Ohio native turned Brooklyn resident Joseph Arthur of not keeping his fans steeped in fresh new music. While his six full-length albums have been released gradually since 1997, Arthur has also supplied the indie world with an almost ridiculous number of EPs in between - most of the time using these EPs as bait for another full-length album on the horizon. Such is the case with Foreign Girls, the last in a series of four EPs released this year leading up to his Temporary People LP due out this month.

With an ever-increasing catalog of music, it seems, at least this time, that Arthur has sacrificed quality for quantity. Foreign Girls ultimately suffers from this common affliction; it’s unfocused and sounds more like a collection of leftovers than a viable cohesive release.

For example, take the leadoff title track. While strumming on his acoustic guitar, Arthur sings an ode to - yes, you guessed it - foreign girls. But with stale lyrics like, ”Everybody wants foreign girls. Everybody hates foreign girls,” set to Arthur’s monotone crooning, he simply comes across as bored and the listener follows suit.

The good news is that it’s all uphill from here. Foreign Girls not only picks up pace in tempo but the songs do seem to get better with each one. “Lovely Cost” is a more superior acoustic singer/songwriter offering than the title track, with less mundane vocals and a more substantial chorus; “Such a lovely cost/ I only want to dance with you/ And if you feel you’re lost/ Remember I’ll be finding you.” The next track “Stay” is hurt by lazy and repetitive lyrics, but comes with a synthesizer providing a fresh cosmic background, marking the EP’s turning point.

On “The Killer” we see Author kick up the drum machine and do his best Beck impression, once again changing up his vocal styling to imitate everyone’s favorite alternative-folkster. It’s unexpectedly upbeat despite its title and sung from the viewpoint of a man on trial. While it is one of the strongest songs on the album, you still can’t help but gawk at how much the sound of it dips into Beck’s territory.

Though lacking in focus, Foreign Girls does display Joseph Arthur’s range as a musician and artist. Each track gives you a different facet of Arthur’s repertoire. Unfortunately being only six songs deep, it ends just as it starts to get good. Then again the purpose of an EP is to merely whet the appetite and they all can’t be as meaningful as another. Perhaps Foreign Girls does achieve its purpose by just supplying a preview of what to expect on the upcoming Temporary People. However, the payoff of that strategy remains to be seen.

Highlight Track: “Lovely Cost”
Rating: 5 / 10


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