Paula Kelley has been a shoegazer in the Drop Nineteens in the early '90s, a punk popper in Boy Wonder during the mid-'90s, and best of all, an alluring chamber pop songwriter, arranger and singer on her two solo albums, released in the early 2000s. Some Sucker's Life, Pt. 1 is a collection of solo songs and demos recorded between 1993 and 2005, many of which showed up on Boy Wonder releases in studio-produced form, and some of which were buried in Kelley's archive. All of the songs are well-constructed and tuneful, and in such an intimate setting Kelley's impossibly sweet vocals really get a chance to hook listeners. On ballads like the gentle acoustic version of Blue Öyster Cult's "Burning for You" or the countrified "Talk Away," her little girl warbling is cute; on the rockers like "Born to Be a *" or "Your Big World," it is almost subversive. The best songs are those like the girl group-y "Life Isn't Fair" from 1996, or "Over Your Head" from 1998 that show off her nascent arranging skills. You can draw a line from those songs to a 2005 demo "Goodbye September," admiring along the way how much richer her voice has become, how much fuller the arrangements are, and how drastically the demo technology she utilizes has changed. Some Sucker's Life is a real treat for Kelley fans and the "Vol. 1" in the title seems to promise that there are more demos and home recordings to come.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra