Spun: The Blue Raincoats

Blue Raincoats mastermind Keri Steele seems to be using the project as her audition for the Canadian spotlight. The self-titled debut is an album straining to overcome its singer-songwriter origins, adding punch to its arrangements with electric guitar stabs and floating horn counter-points but in the end it falls shy of greatness.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s holding the album back. The melodies are consistently strong, the arrangements are varied, and Steele’s voice has a hushed strength able to compliment this type of music perfectly. Only one song, the Norah Jones-lite “Apple of my Eye,” could reasonably be considered a dud. One listen to “Childhood” makes it clear what’s lacking elsewhere–Steele sings prettily but not intimately. It’s not that she’s deliberately detached but she somehow avoids the nuances of a truly great performance.

If she could consistently turn in vocals as strong as “Childhood” or album opener “Middleman,” Steele would sit comfortably in Canada’s upper echelon of indie-pop women, alongside Feist and Emily Haines. As it stands, she’ll have to settle for understudy.

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