Whether or not it’s intended to be, this record is an open call for collaboration, seeking like-minded musicians (and maybe a sound engineer or producer) to join in the effort of making these songs come to life. As it is, Chancellorpink is the personal project—one gets the immediate sense that “pet” is too diminutive a description for how much is invested in it—of Ray McLauglin, a Pittsburgh part-time musician who’s spent the last several years writing songs and self-recording basement tapes to create the Chancellorpink persona. Unfortunately, like so many one-man home recording projects, this one fairly begs for some help from others. Although many of the tracks on this disc show promise in their present form—a mix of power pop, light psychedelia, murky ambience, and lo-fi aesthetics—the execution doesn’t really give them the life they might deserve. The vocals frequently come off as clipped, the mix is often strangely awkward (though, in many senses, that is the thematic mood of the album, so it may be deliberate), and the instruments are so distinct that they seem to be floating in a soup rather than interacting. Granted, that may just be the reaction of this reviewer. I tend to prefer my pop decently polished, and those who enjoy rough-hewn bedroom performance—those for whom Robert Pollard recording into a boom box and mixing on a 4-track sounds heavenly—will probably enjoy this a lot more, and the disc has gathered its fair share of acclaim in Pittsburgh press. But I know I’d enjoy tracks like “The Longest Nail”, “With You in the End”, and “Don’t Move Away” more if McLaughlin would let go a bit and not hug this music so close to his chest. As it is, only the intentionally simple tracks like “Sunday” seem to work in their current state. Without a collaborator or two to balance out the songs, either in performance or in production, this winds up feeling like a rough set of demos; a good reflection of isolation, yes, but underdeveloped.
// Notes from the Road
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