Suave vocalist of the Sharp Things, Perry Serpa, explains the creation of his group in 1995 as “a means to realize the spiralling shapes in my head.” A Moveable Feast, the third album from New York’s 11-piece symphonic-pop band, who are joined here by the Hold Steady’s keyboard player Franz Nicolay and the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, attempts to release some of the pressure with an eclectic assortment of numbers like the darkly atmospheric chamber-pop of opener “The Jumper”, the smouldering, tyrannical Velvets-esque lullaby “Storm King” and the breezy sing-along melancholia of “Bureau de Change” to often dazzling effect. Elsewhere, Serpa tones down the grandiose orchestration and glides into some swinging lounge-pop reminiscent of the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon accompanied by a subtle horn section and swooning strings. These cool vocal stylings make up the second half and provide one of the album’s highlights, “What’s the New Girl Wonder”, a deceptively laid-back tune told from the perspective of a stalker. The constant switch between styles, however, does make you wish the “spiralling shapes” inside Serpa’s head were just a little more focused on occasion. But then again, you do end up with two very good EPs for the price of one not quite cohesive album.
// Notes from the Road
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