Discover America


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Chris Staples used to be in the emo-tinged indie rock band Twothirtyeight, and everything was all right. But it was when he went solo that it started making sense, since his laconic delivery never quite fit with all those angular emo stops and starts. After a couple years of acoustic guitar stuff, Staples has renamed himself Discover America, hooked back up with Tooth & Nail, and issued the reflective, poppy, and charmingly low-fidelity Psychology. With just a few helping hands Staples handled all the production, singing, and instrument-playing at his home studio. Opener "Call It in the Air" features lazy drum programming under an acoustic guitar and a big, reverb-filled chorus; "1986" is a nice snapshot of youth, a peek inside Staples' contented memories -- "Roos on my feet/I'm riding in the back seat staring at the back of my momma's head..." -- as a prominent bassline rises and falls in the background. There's an Eels quality to Psychology, both in Staples' wry, over-enunciated delivery and in the songs' simple, just-so hooks. But because things are so personal and immediate, Discover America can also sound like a significantly cheerier Smog. The vintage organ breathes in your ear on "Green Eyes," and it's perfectly matched to electronic programming, while "From the 100th Floor" pairs bent notes on an electric guitar with a kazoo's fuzzy whistle. Its easygoing quality is definitely Discover America's greatest trait. Staples isn't writing heart-rending dirges -- he'll leave that to the four-word moniker emo bands. He just wants to stand in the corner and let listeners hum along with his observations on life and faith. The songs are occasionally just a little too long, and even if the lyrics are honest his delivery feels overdone at times. But Psychology is still a strong entry as a singer/songwriter album that doesn't sound like one and instead has a sound that's all its own.

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