Thanks to both a strong initial EP in Curtis Lane and equally remarkable live appearances, expectations for Active Child's debut album were quite high. What's really remarkable is how well You Are All I See not only matches but almost exceeds those expectations: its a full-length statement of purpose that manages the trick of both identifying an aesthetic and exploring variations within it. Pat Grossi's remarkable singing voice remains the understandable centerpiece, a sweet, simply gorgeous falsetto that begs comparisons to more contemporary acts like Antony and the Johnsons and Bon Iver, but more accurately calls to mind the pristine singing of Morten Harket of a-ha. Yet even Harket's work never quite had the sheer, clean beauty of Grossi's, evident right from the start with the title track kicking in with a now trademark collage of synth-as-harp strings and rhythm before the vocals send everything over the moon. What's also notable is how the music, like the singing, recalls but does not aspire to clone a presumed golden age of '80s synth pop; for all the potential similarities, there's a distinct, unique feeling on songs like "Ancient Eye" and its slow bass snarl set against massed choruses, or the deep pulses and plucked delicacy on "Hanging On." Yet in ways, it almost all comes back to the voice, set in arrangements like a gem in a necklace. When he pushes and tests the boundaries of that voice, the results are even more remarkable; while the collaboration with How to Dress Well on "Playing House" is lovely, hearing a sudden, yearning growl at one point is a real keeper. The uneasy concluding number, "Johnny Belinda," is equally remarkable given Grossi's almost slow, sighing search for something more, while the direct lyrical sentiments about accelerated love on "Way Too Fast" hit a high point when he not only reintroduces layered vocals, but distorts them, a surprising, disturbing moment of high drama. 2011 is a year for strong albums in general, and You Are All I See deserves to be ranked among the best.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett