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Zen Boy And Karma Girl
Who They Are And How They Came To Be

So you're in your favorite hipster record store. You're trying not to stare at the girl in the TV On The Radio T-shirt and you're kind of hoping to run into those friends you only see at shows and record stores. You don't really want to be seen with a cartoon CD cover depicting two intergalactic travelers at an open-mic night. You certainly don't want that girl comparing her Liars purchase to your Zen Boy And Karma Girl selection.

The cringe-worthy band name is only matched by an equally insipid album name and a ridiculous liner-note story about crashing on Earth and playing folk shows until they can fix their spaceship. The absurd premise is sadly the only original part of the act. The songs are basic folk melodies over lyrics about a dull, directionless life. Fairly disappointing content for a pair of supposed aliens.

"Everyone's so serious, I just want to play," Zen Boy sings on the opening track, setting the bar low for the couple to reach. "I am only a copy, what'd the original say?" The rest of the album happily riffs on the dull squareness of their lives. "There won't be no drinking tonight," they promise on one track, removing any expectations of the couple pursuing the alcohol-fueled excesses of The Hold Steady.

The disc's highlight is "Wonder Woman," which questions why she of the invisible plane and the lasso of truth would date the song's self-sorry protagonist. With a few funny lines about superheroes, it certainly trumps the bulk of the tracks. However, it mainly just follows the same thread as much of the record. The album ends with Zen Boy lamenting having been ditched by the "Life Of The Party." "She's so busy making friends she forgot all about me," he whines, capping quite a sorry song cycle about the wallflower who feels sorry for himself.

Musically, they may not break the mold, but Zen Boy and Karma Girl (both liner notes and band Web site are mum on their real identities) share their pretty voices in Carpenters-worthy harmonies. The only instrumentation on most of the album is Zen Boy's acoustic guitar and a tambourine.

Granted, it's hard to make folk-pop particularly unique or compelling. Any given night a folk duo may play Simon And Garfunkel covers in your neighborhood coffee shop. On the other hand, most of them aren't trying to pass themselves off as wayward human-like aliens on a cartoon stage.

-Steve Graham

Track listing:
1. Copy
2. Two Monkeys
3. There Won't Be
4. Keys
5. Yeah Yeah
6. Wonder Woman
7. And I Lost
8. Madison
9. Love, Love, Love
10. Life of the Party

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