Cate Le Bon 

CYRK

Cate Le Bon heightened her profile last year mainly as an opener, accompanying the very successful St. Vincent on multiple tours. I caught her at Austin City Limits in October, and it was a curious experience. Standing solo on stage with just her guitar and her quirky, Welsh accent, she was appealing in certain ways, and off-putting in others. The same remains true of Le Bon's new album, CYRK. When she comes at it straight, in a matter-of-fact, Nico-referencing singsong, her tunes are pleasant and snug. Songs like "Puts Me To Work" feature earwormy melodies, suitable for Sunday driving or a Wes Anderson soundtrack, and there's plenty here to grow on you. But she doesn't appear content to stay in her comfort zone. Her high range is less endearing than her middle or even low ranges, and it's a place that she insists on going frequently. Then there's bizarre touches here and there -- solos from guitars, trumpets, or other unidentifiable noisemakers -- much of which sound like noodling, and, over the already sparse instrumentation stick out like raw, chafed thumbs. Cate Le Bon seems stuck halfway between solo artist and rock band. There are glimpses of a more successfully filled-out sound, like the Sixties psych-rock vibes on "Ploughing Out Part 2," but again it devolves into a lackluster block of noise, which ends out the album. "Through The Mill" is probably the best example of Le Bon's hybrid folk and found sound technique, but she establishes little consistency in this regard. (The Control Group)

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