With a denser sound than the spacious Child Bride, Hannah Cohen's second album, Pleasure Boy, brings atmospheric, tense synths and dissonant effects for a cinematic feel on the collection of torch songs. While her debut was more about longing and fascination, here Cohen plays the role of a melancholy Lorelei, both on the come-hither, topless (no, no, on second glance, not topless) cover photo, and on an opening track about trying to seduce her love interest away from another ("If I ask you to leave her/Would you go?/Tell me you still love me"). Produced again by keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (the National, Rufus Wainwright), the concise, eight-track set consists of songs with different takes on pining for a lost love, one that could have been but was never hers: "I didn't wanna elicit trouble/I just wanted to be your baby sometimes, too." On "I'll Fake It," she's willing to play dirty ("I know a good girl when I see one/Baby, this one's out for blood/I'll fake it every time"), and she delivers a sparse ballad of schadenfreude and regret with "Watching You Fall." The majority of the tracks, however, are woeful rather than petulant. While, depending on perspective, the album's a bit shallow on dignity, it goes a long way on atmosphere and seductive, despairing style. Cohen's vocals have a detached, mournful quality in the spirit of a wispier Angel Olsen or Lana Del Rey. Droning keyboards maintain a consistently haunting backdrop to the singer's yearning melodies. The jazzy "Queen of Ice," with drums and saxophones, could be straight from the catalog of Peggy Lee; the song and album are dripping with heartache. Though a few listeners may be put off by the, to reference TV's 30 Rock, "sexy baby" effect Cohen's delivery can have, the overall tone of Pleasure Boy is so alluring, it's likely most will be coaxed into sympathy and root for her heart's recovery -- so long as she's not the competition.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson