David Steinhart isn’t trying to fool you. As a testament to his songwriting habits, the final words of one of his tunes are “All I write are sad love songs,” and it•s all too true. Clean is a generally poppy profile of one introspective and lonely guy, and its sharp layering of acoustic and electric guitars give it a Belle & Sebastian-like ambiance that lacks some of their soothing and original nature. However, that’s not to say that Steinhart doesn’t have a small charm of his own, but it’s far more of a direct love-him-or-hate-him nature. His vocals are a bit flighty but overall quite appropriate for his lyrics: emotional, overly dramatic and in tune, much like what would be expected from the poorly lit, melancholy, looking-at-the-ground-because-everything•s-gone-terribly-wrong picture of him on the album’s cover.
It’s obvious that Steinhart has it in him to be one of the most unrelentingly sappy songwriters to ever hit a studio. Thankfully, he doesn’t let that side out of him too often, because the result is tracks like “Drive,” where he nearly sobs in pathetic despondency, “We drive together or follow each other/We share all of our CDs.” When he keeps the tempo upbeat, though, there is some good music to be made: complicated pop with a small smidgen of lounge that, while not always very catchy, is at least somewhat pretty. But damnit, they really are all sad love songs.
Stonegarden Records, 3101 Exposition Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90018, http://www.stonegarden.com