More than five years after his languid, electronica-tinged Harpooner, Paul Brill’s latest release finds him occupying a more lighthearted space, albeit uneasily. “I miss the comfort of a worried, troubled life,” he sings on album opener “Sunny Guy.”
Indeed, songs like the barroom anthem “The Royal Oui,” and the psychy, vaguely Caribbean love song “S’Wonderful” find Brill in brighter psychic territory than we left him, but that old, unsettled past is never far from sight. Whether he’s penning a song about intra-familial romance (“Kissing Cousins”) or singing about a mind “raw from all the thoughts I couldn’t swallow” (“Debussy Roses”), Brill remains just troubled enough to keep his songwriting interesting.
While he lacks a great set of pipes, he makes up for it in delivery—here, drawing on the talk-singing style of Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty, there, the silly bombast of Ruby Isle’s Mark Mallman. The result is a collection of nicely polished, if a little vanilla, pop songs whose stated discomfort with their own sunniness makes Breezy a much more compelling alternative to the rose-colored glasses worldview of Brill’s “laid-back bro” peers such as Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.