Smile Smile

Smile Smile's sad sad guy/gal duets about failure, break-ups and betrayal are like a journal detailing a quarter-life crisis, but the pretty pretty multilayered harmonies and piano are the antidepressants that keep you from crying about it. The first three song titles--"Waving the White Flag," "Now It's Over" and "Sad Song"--let you know exactly what you're in for, but the music is soothing enough to keep you from slitting your wrists. Track three more than lives up to its title musically with singer Ryan Hamilton emoting like Chris Martin reaching for high notes and Bono growling for low notes. The mimicry would be nauseating...if he wasn't so good at making it his own. Hamilton and Jencey (whose last name isn't provided in album notes or on the band's Web site) take turns singing on "Stranger Across the Street," with both lusting after some stranger in the only song that's at all upbeat. The album closes with "25 Years," a reflection on his young life that leaves Hamilton second-guessing his choices after a quarter-century that has "come and gone like the wind."

Lines like that well-worn simile are annoying; would it have been that hard to think of something besides "wind" that suggests impermanence? And the drum loops could have been programmed in five minutes by a 10-year-old; the fact that every song sticks with the same beat throughout the disc sounds lazy. But these nitpicks aren't enough to damper the Dallas duo's dynamics on vocals and instruments. Overall, the debut is certainly nothing to frown frown about.


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