In addition to the slew of solo records released under various monikers (Papa M, Aerial M) David Pajo has definitely paid his dues. After playing with math rock icons Slint and Tortoise, he shared his talents with everyone from Stereolab and Royal Trux to Will Oldham and Billy Corgan. Perhaps that inexplicable latter stint (in Corgan's short-lived vanity project Zwan) created a need for a sonic palate cleansing, as these 10 austerely pretty songs leave the impression that Pajo is trying for a more hushed and solitary creative statement.
There will undoubtedly be a fair number of Elliott Smith comparisons tossed in Pajo's direction, a parallelism that is understandable, if not entirely accurate. Yielding impressively warm results using the cheap software program packaged with his computer, Pajo strums his guitar delicately, sings sweetly, and offers up a variety of confessional first-person narratives. Not everything works: The obtuse and cornball lyrics of closing track "Francie" pretty much scream out for a Tenacious D parody, and the uniformity of tempos can make songs melt together. Despite those minor flaws, Pajo's vulnerable delivery and the inviting, intimate atmosphere he's conjured make Pajo a notable record worthy of late-night listening. HANNAH LEVIN
THE FREE DESIGN
The Now Sound Redesigned
(Light in the Attic)
With modern recording technology, nearly anything is possible. Using a few mouse clicks, a producer can turn an anodyne Air Supply vocal harmony into a monstrous stoner-metal dirge. So it's not all that shocking to find some of today's craftier beatmakers and studio alchemists transmuting the Free Design's cotton-candied sunshine pop from the '60s and '70s into head-nodding fodder. When you have fans in high places, like these melodious goody-goodies do, a remix album is inevitable. And this one's better than most, due both to the outstanding source material and the remixers' acute affinity for psychedelia's soft underbelly. Red-hot indie hiphop crate-digger Madlib puts ruggedly kinetic beats beneath the sweetly lilting orch-pop of "Where Do I Go," then forms a great oblong groove out of shredded analog-synth tones, violin, and triangle. On "To a Black Boy," Danger Mouse and Murs take the most liberties, as Murs lays an original rap about a promising scholar-athlete teen imprisoned for statutory rape over Danger Mouse's staccato beats, and an enveloping female voice is used as texture. Whether they're reverent or irreverent, the remixers unerringly find--and cleverly recontextualize--the poignant beauty of the Free Design's fluffy yet enduring songs. DAVE SEGAL
**** Turning Water Into Wine
** Walking on Water
* Withering a Fig Tree
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