Kleenex Girl Wonder

Graham Smith Is the Coolest Person Alive

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Graham Smith claims that the he got the title for his second Kleenex Girl Wonder album, Graham Smith Is the Coolest Person Alive, from a note that was written by a high school classmate. But given that Smith has a penchant for faux rock-star posturing, it is just as likely that he wrote that note himself. The comparisons between Smith and Guided By Voices mastermind Robert Pollard are plentiful, but such comparisons focus almost entirely on their shared affinity for lo-fi recording and short, Beatlesesque pop songs. There are many similarities in sound and structure between the two, but Smith is no mere copycat. While Guided By Voices' lo-fi songs sound like a collection of live first or second takes, Smith's work is the result of precise, deliberate production, replete with synthesizers and other electronic sounds. Smith plays every instrument on the album, and he uses this creative liberty to load each track with layer upon layer of sound. Perhaps because of this, Graham Smith Is the Coolest Person Alive suffers from sounding too muddled at times. Smith is, like Pollard, a talented and prolific writer of pop melodies, but also like Pollard, these melodies often could benefit from sparser and/or cleaner arrangements. All nitpicking aside, the majority of these songs are filled with great hooks and melodies. Smith is also a connoisseur of rap and hip-hop, and some of the songs, such as "I Can't Humanize" and "You Need Me," sound like they were produced accordingly. On these tracks, Smith lays down a beat and a synthesizer loop and seems to improvise the lyrical lines. "The Bostonians" is the best guitar-driven song on the album, and "Julie & Barbara," "Ponyoak," and "What Is Your Posture?" are lo-fi classics. Not as essential as Ponyoak, but darn close.

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