taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs


Usually a solo act in his numerous appearances around the Triad area, Evan Olson has formed a musical partnership with girlfriend Mani Liebe called AM rodeo, with their debut album Doot due out on Sept. 14. Much like the album’s onomatopoeic title suggests, they’re billing themselves as an acoustic glam-pop band. The problem is, Doot lacks the campiness and wit expected of the genre’s current incarnation and found in acts like the Scissor Sisters, Semi Precious Weapons or even Adam Lambert. More accurately, it’s a pure pop-rock effort with occasional nuances of jangle, sunshine pop, cornball inspirational and adult contemporary, though peppered with just enough vaguely sexual implication to be confounding. The album does indeed try to be sexy — see the tired Big Apple getaway themes in opener “NYC” — but its lack of depth makes it feel like the sonic embodiment of sexting in chatspeak. Liebe’s voice itself is smooth and sexy, though she tends to fall into the soft verse/loud chorus dynamic too often. Lyrically, the album lags far behind it’s expert instrumentation. Olson’s nimble, easygoing basslines propel the mood in “Never,” while his guitar work and Liebe’s Fender Rhodes dance expertly across the track. What kills an otherwise standout track are the awful autotune-laced vocals that Olson dubs in as backing and which become apparent in Liebe’s voice as the track ends. The following track “Feel” itself begs the question: Could this really be an album made in the year 2010? It’s vintage Wilson Phillips-era easy listening in both sound and content. Just as the album heads toward the precipice of pop tedium, it gives us both “Want” and “Yeah Yeah.” “Want” is the sole track on the album that feels to be conceived of genuine emotion, free of the artifice painted over the preceding tracks, and bolstered by Liebe’s sultry vocal hook. “Yeah Yeah” is a slice of the great Easter-era jangle, with Olson taking the vocal lead and tossing in a sunny guitar solo for good measure. It’s really not enough to hide the album’s glaring defects, however, as Doot elicits feelings antithetical to that of what good pop is supposed to create, i.e. the more spins you give it, the easier it is to dislike.