Richard Julian

Girls Need Attention

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On his sixth album, Richard Julian proves that you can say more in a whisper than you can with a shout. Like its predecessor, 2008's Sunday Morning in Saturday's Shoes, Girls Need Attention is a sparsely produced affair, centering on Julian's acoustic guitar and husky croon, adding other elements only as needed. When the barbed-wire guitar licks of Wilco's Nels Cline crop up on the incisive "Words," for instance, it's a sound that's essential to the feel of the tune, not just some overdubbed afterthought. And while the dynamic is mostly a low-key one throughout the album, Julian's trenchant songcraft can turn even the most ostensibly unassuming ballad into a weapon of mass destruction. A perfect example is "World We Made," where the pretty melody and placid feel are undercut at key moments by a subtle-but-stark evocation of emotional turmoil, matched at those same points by discordant turns in the harmonic structure. The album's lone cover tune -- in fact, the first one Julian has ever recorded -- suggests a stylistic lineage as it tips a hat to the original master of subtly sardonic songwriting; Julian gives Randy Newman's hilariously tragic tale "A Wedding in Cherokee County" a perfectly deadpan reading with a rootsy guitar-and-fiddle setting that's actually closer to the milieu of its backwoods characters than Newman's piano-led original. Of course, it's not all sneaky subversion -- tunes like the opening cut, "Window," for example, are dreamy swirls of images that tickle the cerebral cortex even as they connect a straight line to the soul, in the way that some of Paul Simon's more stream-of-consciousness latter-day songs might.

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