How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL
(Kill Rock Stars)
New Jacksonville project Gospel Music is the vehicle for musician Owen Holmes, bassist for Internet phenomenon Black Kids. On this high-profile debut album, his own devices draw him into waters much more brainy and twee. It seems that on his own, Holmes would rather pluck out droll lo-fi pop songs than rush the Saturday night dance floor. Waltzing somewhere between a more stylized Moldy Peaches and a less honed Magnetic Fields, Gospel Music spins lyrical witticisms, knowing naiveté and basic, pure melodies into deadpan candy. This is an act that does not fear the oft-dreaded four-letter C-word: cute.
At its best, as on lead single “This Town Doesn’t Have Enough Bars for Both of Us,” the music is simple but melodically astute and crisply rendered. Just as effervescent is the Field Mice-esque “Apartment,” an adorable and fetching twist on a reunion duet song. Other notable tracks include the muted, bobbing charm of “We Think the World of You” and “No Sharks,” a nice jangler cast with a pleasing echo patina.
The thing is, this sort of quirky, literate conceit can be perilous territory. By definition, it’s a canny, flamboyantly self-conscious tack that takes a lot of skill and finesse to pull off without looking like you’re trying way too hard (see: Adam Green). Although he shows glimpses of promise, Holmes just doesn’t have the knockout wit and humor of masters of the form like Stephin Merritt and Jonathan Richman. What’s more, the actual songs don’t hit the above-cited heights enough to make this record extraordinary as a full-length work. The highlights are good but, overall, How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL is a modestly pleasant diversion – nothing more, nothing less.
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