Lisa Loeb

Cake and Pie

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There was a gap of about five years between Loeb's second and third albums, which is enough time for some sort of significant growth or stylistic alternation to have taken place. There's not much of such things on Cake & Pie, however. Loeb remains an above-average major-label singer/songwriter, given to pensive self-reflection that doesn't quite cross the line into self-absorption. The emphasis is on intense examination of the motives that drive, maintain, and sometimes erode relationships, passionate without boiling into a rage. Perhaps she should get a little more uncoiled once in a while, though, as the hardest-rocking numbers here, like "Payback" and "Too Fast Driving," deviate enough from her established brainy-yet-emotional persona to command a little more attention than usual. On the more expected acoustic-colored numbers, "She's Falling Apart" is, again, a standout in that it strips down the production to enough basics that the arrangement has an unguarded edginess on par with the wary uncertainty of the lyrics. Otherwise the melodies and playing tend too much toward average modern rock, albeit with more heart and intellect than most. As a singer, she remains pleasant and confident, but not so unique or fiery that she burns into the synapses as well as the best storytelling songwriters do.

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