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Nate Currin
Goodnight California
Archaic Cannon Records
www.natecurrin.com


Two songs into Nate Currin's debut album, Goodnight California, there was such a resemblance in both sound and song construction to Lifehouse that was so overwhelmingly strong, I felt like I was listening to Lifehouse-Lite. To my ear, it's an obvious attempt at that band's spiritually uplifting anthems, with Currin's urgent, breathy vocals in the verse, rising up in pitch and intensity in the chorus. Yet it sounds contrived. The softer "Lucid Dream" fares no better, and does nothing to shake that comparison. Unfortunately though, while he has the sound, he just doesn't have the lyrical potency to pull it off.

"Yellow Springs" is a pretty song, but if you're not enamored with Currin's hushed delivery and the shimmery, chiming quality of the music, many of the songs have a "sameness" to them. "Gypsy Girl" jumps out ahead of the pack with its part pop, part rap sensibility and curious lyrics ("With the roll of the highway, beat of the drums/chaos in the laughter as the night rolls on/tattoos, nose rings, steal the show /like Passion Pit on the radio"). This track no doubt benefited from the influence of hip-hop and R&B producer Simon Illa, who co-produced the album along with Dan Hannon (Manchester Orchestra), and it does show the band in a different light.

"Coming Home" is a change of pace as well - a quiet ballad with piano and orchestral strings, and smooth production values that might make it suitable for soft rock radio. About 2/3 into the album, songs of dancing lovers, summer romance, and love lost give way to a more purposeful message. Currin's conviction is obviousin songs like "City Of Grey", with lines like "but oh God, we're such a mess, we've traded your words for selfishness, as the world fades away in the city of grey". In "The Confessional" - the strongest song in terms of storytelling prowess and I suspect closest to the band's true soul - he speaks of being "jaded and sixteen with bibles in hand" while they "prayed that Jesus would forgive our sins." This one song impressed me with its philosophical depth; too bad there weren't more like this. So, this is a Christian pop band, singing of faith, shame, and the search for salvation. Fine by me. Especially with poetic lines like "but all our emotion, like heavenly potion, had faded with contemptuous youth/But my introspection, like an eternal felon, locked up in confessional booth."

All in all, I would have given this a "fair to middling" with a few tracks that glimmer with future promise. Except that one song, "Secrets", stopped me cold:
"… deep inside we all despise our secrets/girls with girls and preachers with no shame/we're holding out for something to hold on to/or someone to blame."

"Preachers with no shame" - I'm all on board with that, but "girls with girls"? Whoa, hang on; are they going where I think they're going? Yikes. This is the reason why I can't get behind a lot of rap music - lyrics that are misogynist and sexist. Same goes for homophobia. Game over. Good luck, guys. I hope you find your salvation.

-Julie Stoller

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