Adding to the list of records from young male singer/songwriters who grew up listening to Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley, Rick Oliver's debut, Continual Battle of Thoughts, aims to place itself among the ranks of Grace and Either/Or. The problem is, though, that at its best, the album is only reminiscent of other, better artists. Besides the Smith and Buckley references, which show up quite frequently in song structure and vocal style -- "I'll Be the Death of You" is like "Between the Bars," "Embrace Me" is like "Grace" or "Lover, You Should've Come Over" -- there are hints of Coldplay, Elvis Costello, and the Rolling Stones, specifically "Say Nothing (Part 1)," whose verse is practically stolen from "Wild Horses." And at its worst, Continual Battle of Thoughts is just other generic rock record that never completely takes off for itself. While Oliver may sometimes be able to musically imitate his idols, his lyrics fall far short of anything any of them ever produced. He sticks to the always safe and catholic idea of love for his topic of choice, but he sings about it in such a boring way, repeating predictable phrases again and again ("I'm a little bit over you/I'm emotionally over you/I'm so sick and tired of you" goes the chorus of "Over You") that any musical skill he may have is lost behind belabored rhymes. Nor are the tracks themselves strong enough melodically or compositionally to make up for these shortcomings. "I'm a Cannonball" does have a good, catchy hook and opens the album nicely, but things pretty much go downhill from there, and the songs, with their fuzzy guitars or occasional acoustic arpeggios, began to all sound the same. If Rick Oliver wants to get anywhere, he's either going to have to improve as a lyricist or choose other people to imitate instead, because if not, he's always going to be just a second-rate comparison.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown