This sophomore album builds on the earnest singer-songwriter persona developed on The Independent by 24-year-old Dallas, Texas native Brad Skistimas (who performs under thenom de musique Five Times August). There’s not a bad sound or even a bad sounding song on the disc, which was produced by Todd and Toby Pipes, best known for their work with Deep Blue Something. But as the reference to that band might imply, the music here is mostly well-groomed Top 40-oriented material, done with flair but not enough for it to transcend its conservative Richard Marx-ist leanings. Skistimas’ writing tends towards mellow, and a rougher sound would have made for a more engaging experience. So while the mid-tempo “Overrated” and the lead-off single “The Good Life” might have you bopping along while they’re playing, you might not be able to recall them all that well once you pop the CD out of your drive. The hook-filled, bitter diatribe “Beautiful Girls”, and a few other tunes, though, show that Skistimas can up the intensity level if he tries. Skistimas has made a name for himself by getting his music placed on countless TV shows and prompting some 100,000 downloads for the music on his first album all without a record label deal. This self-released effort is commendable since it exemplifies the “new business model” for the record industry we keep hearing about. But Skistimas doesn’t really shake the influence those companies had, because his music too often sounds like the bland fare they pushed for years.