JAY BRANNAN "Goddamned" Great Depression

Songwriter Jay Brannan has wit to spare.
Songwriter Jay Brannan has wit to spare. (Nettwerk Records)
  Enlarge Photo    
Friday, July 11, 2008

JAY BRANNAN"Goddamned"Great Depression

BEST KNOWN FOR HIS revealing role in the controversial 2006 film "Shortbus," singer-songwriter Jay Brannan has released a debut album that is not for the faint of heart, as its title might imply. But it is perfect for the brokenhearted. Thematically, there is very little to smile about: Failed relationships, dishonesty, religious hypocrisy and insecurity all weigh heavily on the album's 11 tracks.

Stylistically, however, Brannan is on to something. His precise, Cool Whip-smooth voice, which makes John Mayer sound downright abrasive, has ample room to soar above the minimalist instrumentation. Most songs are Brannan, his guitar and an occasional violin or drum.

Brannan demonstrates his gift for turning a (sometimes vulgar) phrase throughout and is at his best when he is at his wittiest: "They say there's no love left in the big cities; it's kind of true," he posits on "Can't Have It All," about finding love and success, preferably at the same time. "I guess you'll find me coming soon to a small town near you."

The climax is the title track, in which he ties modern-day religion to Greek mythology. It seems a bit out of place on an album where most songs somehow pertain to an ex-lover. But as is true throughout, for Brannan, it's all in the delivery.

-- Alex Baldinger

Appearing Sunday with Chris Pureka at the 9:30 club (202-393-0930,http://www.930.com). Doors open at 7.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company