[10 June 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Carolyn Berk, singer/songwriter/leader of Portland, Oregon’s Lovers, is emotionally vulnerable. Her resignation is her strength, enabling her to approach failed romance with frankness and a certain defiance. This approach, along with her wounded-yet-mannered singing voice, recalls nothing so much as New Wave-era singer/songwriter Martha Davis. Likewise, the vaguely artful, synth-shaded arrangements on I Am the West is heavily indebted to Davis’ band, the Motels. The album starts strongly, edgy pop songs like “How the Story Ends” and “Let’s Stay Lost” providing an effective backdrop for Berk’s naked, often striking lyrics. As it progresses, though, I Am the West gets bogged down by too many nondescript, midetmpo arrangements and songs about “wrestling horses”. Actually, there’s only one of those, but it’s one too many. Still, this could well make the day of people who would love Rilo Kiley were it not for Jenny Lewis’ “look at me!” causticity.