The Old Me Vs. the New You

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Returning with another blast of sharp and sarcastic synth pop, Laptop, aka talented New Yorker Jesse Hartman, wastes no time on his second full-length outing cutting everyone (including himself) down to size. "The New You" is a winningly snide take on reinvention, with multiple vocals murmuring discouragement in the background -- something that's becoming a Laptop trademark. Meanwhile, on "Back Together," Hartman asks an ex for another chance, but even then can't resist insulting her, by admitting "I couldn't do better." And the hilariously trivial "I Can't Say Hi" will strike a chord in anyone who's ever crossed the street to avoid saying hello. However, while his lyrics are spot-on, the '80s-style backing is more inconsistent here than on the previous Opening Credits. There's increased emphasis on guitars, and, overall, the album leans in the direction of Gary Numan (especially given the exaggeratedly robotic vocals Hartman occasionally affects). But the repetitive grooves of "Cool Scouts" and "We Never Made It to Venice" succumb to the same sterility that gave synths a bad name the first time around, and the entire second half of the album is rather static melodically. Still, when Hartman puts it all together, he's tough to beat: on "Gimme the Nite," the album's haunting standout, he tries out his pickup lines but comes off surprisingly vulnerable, a truly lonely guy beneath the snappy patter. There's enough of the latter on The Old Me Vs. the New You to keep anyone smiling, but Hartman's momentary drop of the mask shows he's not just a one-joke pony.

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