You Didn't Know
Black Numbers Records
PJ Bond has been around the block before a few times – or so I’ve read. Previously he played in Outstanding Simon, The Color Fred and Marigold – the last of which I haven’t heard before and I was never much of a fan of the first two, so I never knew who PJ Bond was or took much notice of him. However, I started to run into his name a lot with the release of his sophomore solo album, You Didn’t Know I Was Alphabetical (a dig at all the people who didn’t realize his first album’s track listing was in alphabetical order), and so I was intrigued to see what he sounds like.
Right off the back, Bond impressed me. The album kicks off with a bouncy little acoustic number You, Too which falls somewhere between Bright Eyes and The Special Goodness. It’s a catchy number, with impressive and varied instrumentation that is really pushed forward by some nicely layered vocals, pedal steel and some perfectly placed hand clapping. You, Too is a beautiful emo/indie/acoustic cut – like Bright Eyes – and You Didn’t Know I Was Alphabetical gets off on the right track.
It then goes into Stop Being Bad and goes straight downhill from there.
The record is never again able to recreate the simple honesty and sincerity of You, Too and instead becomes a bit too bland and slightly over polished (which is surprising considering the DIY way in which it was recorded). Bond turns away from the emo/indie mixture that made the opening track so good and infuses more country and pop influences into his song; and by the end it all becomes a bit too overwhelming.
He occasionally recreates that initial glory, like Quiet or Loud which sounds like The Format and Fucking Viv which sounds like a Weezer demo. He scales back all the additional instruments and keeps it at only an acoustic guitar, sings which a tinge of Rivers Cuomo accent and even uses some tongue-in-cheek lyrics; but even that becomes a bit much near the end as the vocals sound too distant and polished.
The rest You Didn’t Know I Was Alphabetical just feels forced. It sounds as if a less country Austin Lucas song merged with a more pop Jon Snodgrass tune and then they threw in some pedal steel for added effect. The albums falls somewhere between american, indie-folk, and acoustic pop with the occasional flourish into a full blown alt-country-rock and the only truly consistent thing is the bland, overly polished nature of the songs. Songs like Stop Being Bad, The Night of the 27th, You Know The Drill, and Not Theme Summer (Pastro, PA) – not to mention the 13 minutes of dead space between the final song and the bonus track – are all skippable and the others are barely even noteworthy to be mentioned.
It may sound harsh considering there is a lot worse music out there, but the fact is Alphabetical just isn’t able to stand out either. Instead, as you listen to the record, you just slowly forget how amazing the first track was.