Luke Doucet

Broken (And Other Rogue States)

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Where Americans are often stereotyped as being loud and boorish, Canadians are frequently portrayed as being overly polite. If there's a major criticism to be leveled against this sophomore album from former Sarah McLachlan guitarist Luke Doucet, it's that his downtrodden tales of battered hearts and broken dreams are wrapped in poppy musical packaging that's simply a bit too pleasant to deliver the necessary emotional impact. Never has heartbreak seemed so damn cheery. Called the break-up album of the year by various critics in Canada (where the album was released in 2005), Broken (And Other Rogue States) features some impressive Americana influences that could benefit from a bit more minor key melancholy here or a darker vocal melody there. When the soft-voiced songwriter croons, "So cry if you want to/Yeah, you can come undone/But you've gotta have a heart to have a broken one," there's virtually no bite behind the lyrical spite. He's obviously a master song craftsman, as evidenced by the South-of-the-border vibe of "Emily, Please," the deft acoustic balladry of "Wallow," and the shambling blues of "One Too Many." But it's not until the next to last track -- the devastating "No Love to Be Made Here Now" -- that Doucet approaches the greatness of, say, Elliott Smith, delivering a string-laden epic that hits like a sucker punch to the chest. Still, there are simple pop pleasures aplenty to be found here, offering glimpses of an accomplished songwriter just starting to hit his stride.

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