Beauty in Disrepair

Emerson Hart

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Beauty in Disrepair Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Emerson Hart led the post-grunge band Tonic, who scored a major hit in 1997 with "If You Could Only See." Underneath the heavy amplification, Tonic were a sturdy pop band and that's the side Hart emphasizes on Beauty in Disrepair, the 2014 album that's his second solo effort. While it doesn't feel like a throwback to the glory days of the '90s, Beauty in Disrepair nevertheless feels like a record from a different time -- particularly, a record where melodic, highly polished adult pop had a chance of crossing over to the top of the charts. Much of the appeal of this album lies in its syrupy warmth, how Hart is unashamed by either his softness or sweetness; if anything, the warm textures and deliberate pace of Beauty in Disrepair seem like a truer reflection of his craftsman skills than the occasionally forceful Tonic. Perhaps there isn't much space on the charts of 2014 for this kind of carefully sculpted adult pop, but Hart does his job well. He may be a slightly reedy vocalist but that only accentuates the inherent gentleness of his tunes, and when he's enveloped by studio sheen, as he often is on the album, the results are endearing, sounding better, sounding stronger, with repeated plays.

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