Stephen Crumbacher

Take It In

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Stephen Crumbacher has stopped naming bands after himself, and finally admitted to being a solo artist. His solo "debut" is designed to be sort of a quiet devotional album, with lots of nature imagery and a welcome increase in his usage of acoustic instruments. Unfortunately, he's still writing overearnest, oversized shimmering pop numbers -- the difference is that he and his studio musicians have stopped giving overexuberant performances, now favoring underexuberance. Crumbacher's idea of mellowness seems to mean sandpapering the emotional edges of songs until they're shapeless, noncommittal entities which aren't so much quiet as afraid to be loud. There's one notable exception: "Autumn Life" makes surprisingly artful use of a tenor sax to paint shadows in a melancholy arrangement.

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