Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles
The Stars Are Out
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2009, Volume 16, #4
Written by John Metzger
Fri April 17, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
The more attention that Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles receives, the more the group seems to be tailoring its sound to attract a bigger audience. Over the course of its first two efforts, the outfit laid the groundwork necessary for leading its own roots-rock revival. Yet, within its sophomore set Diamonds in the Dark, there also were hints that Borges and her backing band already had decided to alter its approach. Sure enough, its latest endeavor The Stars Are Out is a departure from its predecessors, though unfortunately, the end result falters so frequently that it hardly could be considered an improvement.
Such dramatic shifts in style aren’t without precedent, of course. Parallels easily can be found within the output of artists such as Neko Case, whose songs sound less like products of Nashville every time she settles into a recording studio. There were moments on Diamonds in the Dark when Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles appeared to be following closely in Case’s footsteps. In a sense, the band continues to trek down this path on The Stars Are Out. After all, much like the transition from Case’s Blacklisted to Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the country-imbued perspective that Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles brought to its early material has been pushed to the farthest fringes of its new arrangements. This, alone, isn’t enough to sink the endeavor, but it surely doesn’t help.
Herein lies the problem with The Stars Are Out — Borges still has neither found her voice nor developed her talent as a songwriter. While Case’s lyrics have grown more literate with each outing, Borges’ expressions have remained stagnant. It’s no wonder, then, that half of The Stars Are Out is composed of cover songs. Even worse, although Case has used a wide-reaching, sonic canvas to support her compositions, the music of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles has become more restrictive. Without the country-oriented textures that drifted through Diamonds in the Dark, the group is left with an endless stream of ’80s derivations.
On their own, the brawny, forcefulness of tracks like Do It for Free and Yesterday’s Love — which mirror the stylistic forays of Joan Jett, the Go-Gos, and Elvis Costello — pass muster. Over the course of The Stars Are Out, however, these touchstones, which circulate throughout the affair, not only become tedious, but they also leave less of an impression than one might have hoped. Only two of the 10 tracks on the endeavor succeed in moving Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles beyond its current status as a bar band with a decent record contract: the shimmering, late-night beauty that clings to The Magnetic Fields’ No One Will Ever Love You and the slow-burning intensity of The Lemonheads’ Ride with Me. Everything else is forgettable.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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