RECORDINGS Quick Spins

RECORDINGS Quick Spins

Colbie Caillat's debut CD,
Colbie Caillat's debut CD, "Coco," shows off her warm and inviting voice. (By Andrew Southam)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

COCO

Colbie Caillat

According to the admittedly sketchy metrics of MySpace, 22-year-old singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat was once the site's most popular unsigned musician. But unlike fellow MySpace sweetheart Tila Tequila, Caillat can actually sing and, if the photos accompanying her major label debut, "Coco," are any indication, she prefers to remain fully clothed.

MySpace stars are usually clamorous creatures better suited to the pages of Maxim magazine than Billboard. It's a wonder Caillat broke through at all: "Coco" is the gentlest of albums, a wispy and amiable exercise in coffeehouse soul that draws equally from Carole King, John Mayer and, more to the point, Jack Johnson, who shares Caillat's love of mildly played, determinedly pleasant folk.

Caillat (the daughter of noted Fleetwood Mac co-producer Ken Caillat) is a warm-voiced and remarkable singer but often the clunkiest of songwriters. The simplicity and sweetness of "Coco's" best tracks (such as "Bubbly," which is powerfully and maybe purposefully reminiscent of Johnson's storied "Bubble Toes") too often gives way to innocuousness (as does the drippy closer, "Capri").

"Coco" is so dogged in its embrace of mid-tempo, diary-entry-style acoustic folk that even its ostensibly upbeat, R&B-inspired tracks threaten to induce a state of comalike mellowness familiar to stoners, surfers and anyone who's ever spent time at Lilith Fair. Caillat, whose air of laid-back chipperness threatens to reach dangerous, Matthew McConaughey levels, is in desperate need of a wizened co-writer and a producer capable of de-perkification. (Is Shelby Lynne available?) With a little seasoning and a judicious layer of grit, she'll be an artist to be reckoned with.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Bubbly," "Feelings Show," "Oxygen"

-- Allison Stewart

NEW WAVE

Against Me!

You love the Boss. The Boss loves you back. It's a blue-collar-punk-rock dream come true, right?

To be fair, it's Springsteen's son who's truly ga-ga over this activist punk troupe -- so much so that he keeps dragging his old man out to see the band in concert. And for good reason: The band's bombastic fourth album, "New Wave," finds Against Me! singer Tom Gabel taking oodles of inspiration from Bruce the polemicist. But Bruce the poet? Not really.

Check out these lines from "Up the Cuts," a swipe at the music industry's futile war on illegal downloading: "All the buzz is happening in the new digital marketplace / FBI warning printed on the flipside / Under penalty of law, piracy will be prosecuted." Catchy, innit?

Gabel's clunky lyrics ruin this disc, with the irascible singer refusing to parse his sloganeering into something we the people can sing along to. It's a cruel tease, considering the anthemic crescendos his band whips up in the background. Just listen to the chiming bells and driving guitars of the title track -- (and ignore Gabel as he finds "no signs of original thought in the mainstream").

The band sounds even better on the fringes of its comfort zone, with "Stop!" evoking a grittier Franz Ferdinand and "Animal" recalling the early dirges of Danzig. The other tunes, however, feel like high-sheen imitations of late '90s punk acts Dillinger Four and the (Young) Pioneers. Against Me! may have earned a place in the Springsteen family iPod, but those forgotten bands are far more deserving of a place in yours.

DOWNLOAD THESE: "New Wave," "Stop!"

-- Chris Richards


© 2007 The Washington Post Company