Review Summary: For a blatant Bright Eyes ripoff, you could do a lot worse.
Earlier this year, a track called “Sunday Crossword Challenge” by Adam Linder was included on the underground compilation The What CD
. This song succeeded, and was a clear standout on that compilation, in part due to its catchy acoustic strumming, and in part to its thoughtful lyrics. It lead me (like many others) to Adam Linder’s debut album Burning Up
, released freely through multiple peer to peer networks.
The album is, for the most part, a journey through acoustic indie pop familiar to anyone who has heard a Bright Eyes song in the past few years. Bright, quick chords, semi-personal lyrics with an ironic twist, and that ‘woe-is-me’ forced vibrato style of singing. For example, opener “White Boy Blues” is extremely catchy, the simple finger picked guitar chords and piano complementing Adam’s voice very well in one of the strongest songs to be found.
In all honesty, barring a few strong exceptions, most notably “White Boy Blues” and the previously mentioned “Sunday Crossword Challenge,” the songs that feature Linder by himself on guitar and vocals tend to run together, especially during “The Wrong Words” and “The Right Words,” two songs that are supposed to play off of each other, but are unfortunately placed in a row. They share a common melody motif, which overstays its welcome several times throughout the five minutes that the songs share. This idea may have worked better if they were spaced further apart, possibly bookending the album.
Adam’s lyrics and vocals are a hit and miss affair. Every once in a while he offers a legitimate gem, like the chorus of “Disclaimer,” which begs listeners to “promise you won’t take this seriously.” But for every good line, there ten stinkers like unnecessarily cliché and vulgar “If you have nothing nice to say, then shut your god damn mouth” from “The Basement Manifesto”. And in a genre where an artist will sink or swim on the back of their lyrical musings, Adam Linder misses the mark, but not by much.
truly shines on the one song to feature electric guitar and a full band in its entirety. Put bluntly, Linder is not a strong enough songwriter to sustain an album by himself, and “The Basement Manifesto” is arguably the strongest track on display, with a happy arrangement and catchy pop punk vocal and guitar hook. The other song that partially features a band is “Irony, Illiteracy, and Indifference” whose chorus is completely ruined by an over long, over excited, and sloppily unnecessary drum fill.
It seems like almost every acoustic/indie artist is compared to Bright Eyes, whether justly or not, and it’s this comparison that brings down Burning Up
. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it just sounds so derivative of Conor Oberst that it can’t live on its own merits.
White Boy Blues
Sunday Crossword Challenge
The Basement Manifesto