Review Summary: Excellent musicianship all around earns “Beautiful Awkward Pictures” the status of underrated gem.
Toni Collette (yes, the famous actress) once said that she wanted this album to be the quiet person that the more you get to know the more you like them. She was half right, it’s a quiet album, but it’s not a grower. In fact it’s quite often instantly accessible, a fact that does nothing but endear the album to the listener from the first notes.
Collette’s subdued vocals aren’t perfect, but they’re close enough to love all the same. Her unique tone and soothing delivery go a long way towards endearing the listener to the aesthetic present here. On several occasions she also shows her ability to play with dynamics well, providing just enough variety to perk up the disc without destroying that original ideology. The main example of this, the climax to “This Moment Is Golden”, is so perfectly paced and produced that it’s almost a shame the band went for a more restrained sound for the rest of the songs, particularly since the other band members would do well to explore their talents.
Glenn Richards’ guitar work, for instance, is outstanding. His understated melodies do an incredible amount for the album–listen to “Tender Hooks” and try to tell me he doesn’t make that song much better than it otherwise would have been–but he often sits back and lets others claim the spot light. I respect that the band were aiming for something else, but it seems a shame to not fully capitalize on the talent present. Nonetheless, what is used is used very well. There are some truly great moments, like the bouncy piano and drums in “Black and Blue”, or the surprisingly catchy hook in “Tender Hooks”, and they certainly outweigh the bad.
The bad is unfortunately present though, and it’s led by the lyrics. Sure there are some fine moments, Collette is quite a good songwriter when she puts her mind to it (the title-track for instance), but they’re undermined by lazy song writing and some stunningly bad lines, like this dud from “Tent Waltz”:
“Will you miss me" Please just kiss me.”
That isn’t just filler for the verses, that’s the song’s chorus, and there are numerous other examples scattered across the album.
Outstanding performances on all fronts lift this album above average “adult contemporary” drivel and into underrated gem territory. Collette’s debut as a singer is strong, and the backing band she’s assembled do so much more than support her that it’s a wonder they haven’t struck out on their own. It would be nice to see this project taken beyond what’s shown here, but this does splendidly for now.