I Believe You Liar

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Washington is basically a project of Australian singer/songwriter Megan Washington, who, judging by I Believe You Liar, couldn't figure out whether she's more enthralled by Bob Dylan and Cat Power or vintage pop that can be traced all the way back to the Carpenters, though with many stops along the way. Clean guitars abound, and Washington leads the songs with her singing -- her voice is not too strong or charismatic, but she milks it for what it's worth, to good results. The songs are mainly energetic numbers with bouncy rhythms, hand-clapping, a dash of retro synths, and an all-around involved atmosphere, as well as intelligent lyrics, but this stab at quality pop could actually use some rethinking, because the balance is off -- on one hand, the hooks are never too big, but on the other, the production is too polished, even antiseptic, robbing the tunes of the roughness of authentic indie rock. But there are also slower songs on I Believe You Liar, like the guitar-only "Underground," and those, somewhat surprisingly, work better, because Washington doesn't try so hard to be pop, and her honest emotion and natural smarts can shine without impediments posed by strings, guitars, and other shiny arrangements all competing for sonic space at a hectic tempo. Not all of those are perfect, either -- the closer feels almost like a Disney soundtrack -- but the more relaxed songs allow a listener to ease into the album, appreciating the rest of the music, which is, after all, pleasant, even though it leaves a somewhat disappointing aftertaste of a missed chance -- in this case, the one to be the Aussie answer to Death Cab for Cutie or Tori Amos with a guitar. But still, I Believe You Liar packs plenty of potential and some downright good songs.

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