Music

Catie Curtis: Stretch Limousine on Fire

Here's another genial, generic album of singer-songwriter stuff that wouldn't sound out of place on your local public radio station.


Catie Curtis

Stretch Limousine on Fire

Label: Compass
US Release Date: 2011-08-30
UK Release Date: 2011-10-03
Amazon
iTunes

Over the past fifteen years, chances are you've heard Catie Curtis and never even known it. Her music has appeared on a slew of TV shows -- Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy, and the like. She also performed at President Obama's inauguration in 2009, although her performance didn't quite generate the same kind of buzz as Bruce Springsteen's. Curtis's music is appropriately unassuming for the type of career she's had: pleasant, pretty, a little gritty, a little world-weary, like a female answer to guys like Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne.

On her new album, Stretch Limousine on Fire, Adams may be the closest analog, since Curtis deals in Adams's proclivity for folk-country balladry and confessional songwriting. But like much of Adams's work, Stretch Limousine on Fire doesn't always land. The overriding premise here is the life you get to enjoy after the long road. The newly-married Curtis justifiably sings a lot about being married, with songs called "I Do" and "Wedding Band". But as everyone knows, it's a lot harder to write about being happy than it is to write about being sad or angry or alone, especially when marriage comes into the picture. For instance, Springsteen's immediate post-marriage output, Lucky Town and Human Touch, is inarguably the weakest work of his 40-year career. Likewise, despite Curtis' affability and fine voice, many of her ideas fall flat here.

The result is an album that is by no means bad -- just kind of dull, with hills and dips instead of peaks and valleys. Album opener "Let It Last" has the most fruitful perspective on living the good life: "I know it can't last / But let it last a little longer." The song probably hews closest to the kind of song you wish Curtis had filled the album with. It's bittersweet, nuanced, and heartfelt, with a message that's grown up and a little complicated. That kind of subtlety gets lost in Curtis's wedding songs, which maintain that "looks like we made it" feeling but ditch the tension and keen observation.

Curtis smartly focuses pretty heavily on that idea of transience throughout the album, putting little chestnuts like "There ain't a thing under the sun that will not shake" and "Finally we are meant to go / Across the river wide / Someday I'll fly to the other side" at the centers of many of her songs. But the effectiveness of lines like these is tempered by some tired clunkers: "Shadowbird" is full of them, especially "The beautiful late afternoon horizon glows", and the title line of "Highway del Sol" is just hard to spit out. The worst offender might be the forced "worry/hurry" rhyme in "Another Day on Earth". This kind of music is wordy stuff, and if the tunes are a little ho-hum, the words need to be whip-smart to compensate.

Stretch Limousine on Fire fits into a long timeline of contemporary folk-rock -- this is Curtis's eleventh album, and she's got Lisa Loeb and Mary Chapin Carpenter singing backup -- and if you dig any of the people involved, chances are you'll get something out of the album. It's just a bummer that there's not more to recommend it past its pedigree. It's an album from the heart, and Curtis certainly has plenty of heart to spare, don't be surprised if you're halfway through and you forget what the last song was.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.