New York-based singer-songwriter Chris Grace follows up his accomplished 2002 debut, Compulsion, with this six song EP that shows off his strengths, as well as a few weaknesses.
A palpable weary resignation hangs over opener “Mariann,” as Grace recounts gritty, telling details of a relationship gone bad. “I cannot make you happy,” he sings. “And maybe I don’t want you/ cause I’d prefer a loveless whore.” The guitar work is exemplary here, and Grace’s vocals are just right.
Kiyanu Kim’s pedal steel colors “Leave the Light On,” which is perhaps the lightest song here. Even here, Grace’s voice quavers with feeling as he sings about the burden of memory and emotion: “The truth is that I would like to change/ stop letting my past dictate my present.”
“Meko” has a harsher, heavier sound, with Grace promising to protect a girlfriend from an abusive former lover or rapist (it’s left unclear). The closer, “Minor Chords and Lies,” is a heavy rocker in need of a stronger hook.
The EP’s centerpiece is the intense slow-burner “Take It All Back,” which features a show-stopping vocal performance from Grace. Unfortunately, he shows just how pretentious and humorless he can be with lines like, “You’ve seen the death of beauty and the starting point of shame.” And not even his often painfully strained vocal attack on “In Dreams” can rescue the otherwise dull acoustic number.
Grace has a colorful, if gloomy, outlook on the world of relationships. But a little of this goes a long way. He could stand to leaven future releases with a little humor or at the very least some more light-hearted material.
Chris Grace: www.chrisgrace.com/