When I first put the new album by Pebaluna, “Carny Life,” on my stereo, I said to myself, “Yes, this is exactly what I was expecting from an album with this title.” The title track is a light, breezy, country-style little ditty with vocals that sound a bit like Zooey Deschanel, except that vocalist Lauren Coleman actually sings well. It made me want to sit on my porch (if I had one), drink a beer, and watch the leaves change to red and gold.
The second track, ‘Sister Sara’, takes a darker turn, but still has that kind of outdoorsy, south-western US feel to it. It’s definitely in the same family as She & Him and Jenny Lewis, but far less kitschy. It’s a far more genuine sound than the aforementioned bands.
By track three, however, something was bothering me. It was something…just in the periphery of my mind. A nagging feeling that something didn’t fit right. I couldn’t put my finger on it; ‘Hopeless’ is a damn good song–soulful, jazzy, with a little bit of funk thrown in.
It wasn’t until track four that I realized what was wrong, and this is really going to sound kind of funny. See, Pebaluna really seem to be going for that bluesy, country-soul thing. Their songwriting reflects this, the band is certainly playing it that way, and for the most part, Coleman‘s vocals fit the style. However, the production is…off. That’s not something I usually pay too much attention to, but the whole album feels a little too polished, especially on those first couple of tracks. I really feel like I should hear the echo of the studio and Matt Embree‘s fingers sliding up and down the strings. In fact, the only song that the production really fits the song is on the very Black Keys-esque ‘Please Me’, where the vocals have been run through some light distortion.
So overall, ”Carny Life” is a great album that is, ironically, hamstringed by it’s smoothly polished production, giving what could have been an excellent, organic album a mechanical finish. Let this be a lesson that sometimes, our imperfections make us better than perfection.