Lisa Papineau has built a long list of disparate musical collaborations over the course of her career, working with everyone from Air and M83, to the Mars Volta, to soundtrack composer Tyler Bates. On her second solo record, Red Trees, the sonic schizophrenia that has shaped her musical life will sneak up and catch you off guard at times. Papineau sounds most in control when she’s piling it on, hitting us with the onslaught of handclaps in “Rene Thomas” or the bristling electro-pop sing-along of “White Leather Pants”. Songs like these work best because they pump up Papineau’s breathy vocals with some energetic backing. The trouble she runs into all too often on Red Trees is that she slips into a kind of trudging, threadbare balladry that her noise-making knack can’t help much. On occasion, as on the striking “Marco Chomo”, her whispery, acoustic side can be affecting, but the more these quite numbers pile up, the more they sound like by-the-numbers coffeehouse fare. So while she smartly offsets the quiet with those more buoyant songs, she doesn’t do it often enough, and we’re left wanting more from the ballads because she seems capable of so much more in those other moments.
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