taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

PALEFACE — One Big Party

“Perfection is a lost art, she says/ Everybody can afford a couple mistakes,” sings the man known only as Paleface on “She’s So,” the second track from his newest release One Big Party. Of all the underappreciated folksters circulating on the beaten path, one gets the sense that few can write lyrics that are more introverted and autobiographical than his. Being an integral part of New York City’s anti-folk scene of the early ’90s, Paleface spent a lot of time trying to be anything but perfect. He made a few mistakes on the way. Moving to Concord and signing with Ramseur Records, however, was not one of those. Since 2009’s The Show Is on the Road, Paleface and his partner, drummer and vocalist Mo, have hit upon a creative crescendo and produced a wellspring of indisputably catchy, sanguine and self-reflective music. From the moment you plug into One Big Party you want to clap your hands and tap your toes to Mo’s slightly odd but seamless time signatures and PF’s hypnotically insouciant diction on “You Will Get What You Want.” Mo takes a page from Zooey Deschanel’s songbook with her dreamy croon on the album’s title track which, not to detract from PF’s lovingly labored delivery, might be the album’s high point. The gauzy echo on the track’s hook is warm and goosebump inducing, but the chorus saved for the last quarter of the song seems a bit misplaced. It happens a couple of times on this album — the hip-hop breakdown at the end of the first track included. It’s almost as if he subconsciously tries to sabotage what might otherwise be a perfectly good, normal folk song with an element that makes it just a little bit weird or different. But where Paleface comes from, “normal” isn’t a part of the language, though this album fuses weird and accessible about as well as you can. He takes on a half-hearted vocal caricature of a country singer on “Understand the Man,” but saves the best twang for the lyrically-taxing “See You When the Sun Goes Down,” a song that demands careful attention for full appreciation. One Big Party is a great album, but it’s far from perfect, though we’re not sure that it was ever meant to be.