Amber Rubarth’s Good Mystery unfolds steadily and rather predictably — less like a mystery and more like a breezy romantic comedy that you can’t help but enjoy. This is the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter’s third LP, which sways between a folk and alt-country feel.

 

Rubarth has a lovely voice (especially in falsetto) and sings with a drawl that suits an alt-country style; however, her pronunciation can be distracting in her folksier songs. The album is acoustic, and her voice is most suited to the warmth of the guitar; the tracks rooted in piano don’t feel as balanced. The warmth in the analog recording adds to the honesty in her quieter songs, transporting the listener to a dusty old room with Rubarth and her guitar.

ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW

“The Answer” is delightfully written and composed; it’s an easy favorite of the album. The hardest songs to write are those that concisely capture the essence of a moment. Rubarth accomplishes this in a simple song about getting in the first word on a break-up. The lyrics are quirky and effortless: “I’m just trying to call you to tell you not to call me/ But it keeps going straight to the machine/ Just trying to reach you to tell you I don’t need you/ Any less than you don’t need me.”

In contrast to the material that Rubarth creates from the aftermath of breakups, “Song To Thank The Stars” highlights her a lack of creativity when things are well: “I know exactly what to write when I’m in tears/ But I don’t know what to write/ When you’re still here.” This song isn’t meaty, but feels very personal and showcases Rubarth’s sincerity.

“Wish We’d Gotten Drunk” is by far the most country song on the album, and Rubarth is comfortable, but less interesting in this style. In an ode to mistakes made without the excuse of alcohol, Rubarth confesses, “Good thing it’s never too late to get tanked /And claim the whole thing was misconstrued/ So in the morning when we wake up/ We can blame it all on the booze.”

“The Stairwell,” a six-minute instrumental piano track that ends the album (following a silent track) is a disappointing conclusion to a pretty album that displays Rubarth’s potential as a solo artist. However, if you’re not doing anything new, you have to do it really well to stand out. Rubarth lacks the edge to make this an amazing album. Others like Holly Miranda are making music with a comparable feel, but adding those intangible special pieces that make their music stand out from the pack.

Good Mystery is not inventive, but it does feel honest and endearing, which has its appeal and will certainly capture some hearts along the way.

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