Paula Carino

Open on Sunday

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Paula Carino's second album Open on Sunday sometimes suggests she's stumbled out of a time machine from the mid- to late '90s, when people like Juliana Hatfield, Tracy Bonham, Jennifer Trynin, and Alanis Morissette were making the world safe for smart, edgy girls with loud guitars. And if Paula Carino had emerged on the scene at the same time as those acts, she'd probably have done quite well for herself; she writes songs that are clever and literate without stumbling into pretension, her scruffy but solid guitar work efficiently fills out the melodies, and her vocals have just enough sweetness to make them pleasing while the rockier side of her nature never lags far behind. Carino's music may seem a bit less fashionable today than it would have 15 years earlier, but Open on Sunday's craft is no less impressive for that. The bittersweet wit of "The Others" and "Robots (Helping Robots)" doesn't blunt their sly social commentary, the romantic disillusionment of "With the Bathwater" and "Rough Guide" feels honest and without self-pity, and if the opening cut, "(Mother I Must Go To) Maxwells," captures the mindset of the self-righteous teenage hipster in training, the final track, "Closed On Sunday," suggests where the same girl might have ended up ten years down the line. Carino's production skills aren't quite up to her abilities as a songwriter, and Open on Sunday sometimes plays more like a set of demos than a real album, but if the audio is a bit flat, it doesn't intrude on the songs or Carino's solid rhythm section, and enough here is fresh and intriguing that one hopes a wave of pre-millennial nostalgia will arrive to help her and her music gain the attention they deserve.

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