Telekinesis‘ Chris Walla produced eponymous debut mixed pop and rock seemlessly back in 2009. Recieving fanfare for it’s tight pop hooks and refreshing take on the tired indie-pop genre. 12 Desperate Straight Lines is one-man-band Michael Benjamin Lerner’s second album under the monkier, sonically it is very much business as usual with Lerner sticking to the same sound for his sophomore effort.
It is no surprise that Lerner has worked with Walla as his sound is reminiscent of early Death Cab For Cutie, which means he never attempts to be hip, savvy or even fit into that wide frame of what is considered ‘indie rock’ these days. This is both the best thing and worst thing about 12 Desperate Straight Lines. On one hand listening to this unadulterated and shamelessly pop heavy album can seem like a breath of fresh air. On the other hand it can seem like you have heard it all before back in the early 00s. Lerner also seems to stick to a strikingly similar formula for every song; thundering drums, plucky bass, harmonic vocals and his best impression of the Edge guitar playing. This would be a massive drag if this formula didn’t work almost every time. Sure, pop-fatigue sets in at around the half-way mark but ‘Palm Of Your Hand’ helps to lift that lull by stepping up a few gears and, at 1 minute 28 seconds, teases you into wanting to hear the second half of the album. Luckily ‘I Got You’ is a slight change of pace as it sounds very gritty for Lerner, leaning toward more of a garage rock sound. ‘Fever Chill’ recalls a less world weary Say Hi, but is largely forgettable and, along with ‘Country Lane’, is just a stop gap for Lerner’s first lament of the album in ‘Patterns’. A song revolving around a reverbed piano is a welcome deviation from the up-beat tone of the previous 11 tracks.
What Lerner has created in 12 Desperate Straight Lines is a perfectly decent attempt at a true indie pop record. There is no pretentiousness but unfortunately there is also very little variation from track to track. This should be a fun album to listen to but all the happy harmonies can’t cover up the mundaity of listening to the same track rehashed over and over. If it was not for firecracker ‘Palm Of Your Hand’ I probably would have given up half way through. The aforementioned ‘Patterns’ is also a welcome change but it feels like a little too late. Like all sugar-coated things 12 Desperate Straight Lines needs to be taken in small doses.