Michael Zapruder could well be one of the beneficiaries of the past year’s near-universal critical acclaim of one Sufjan Stevens. His guitars are acoustic, he has a propensity for the vaguely theatrical, and he likes to add lots of other instruments to his balladic compositions. His Rain of Frogs includes folks that he borrowed from the Decemberists and Camper Van Beethoven, and he writes sensitive-sounding songs about alchemists and black birds (as metaphors, naturally). In fact, it is this last that holds him back the most, the “sensitive-sounding” thing—he always sounds as if he’s saying something important about other important things, and that you should listen to this, because it’s weighty and it’s somber and it may affect you deeply. Take any one of these individual songs on it’s own (particularly the actually-kind-of-bouncy “Haymaker Market” and the rising tide that is “Phainopepla”), and you have a beautiful piece of music, ornately orchestrated and plaintively sung by our eponymous hero. Take the album as a whole, and you have an excercise in tedium, albeit a very, very pretty one. Even so, it’s a good start toward lifting Zapruder out of the realm of prolific cult hero and into the modern singer-songwriter lexicon.
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