On The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park, Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Rutledge reveals himself to be a musician with some unique gifts. One of them is crafting songs that are depressing but also, somehow, catchy. “Emily Returns” may be the first toe-tapping ode to a doomed romance ever written. Another is his ability to craft songs that are convincing even though their lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense. “I’m Your Man, You’re My Radio” works as a gentle love song in spite of Rutledge’s nonsensical closing proclamation, “I’m your man / you’re my Champs d’Elysees.”
It’s possible that not even Rutledge knows the meaning of his lyrics, as The Devil on a Bench in Stanley Park is rife with similar examples. Understanding the lyrics, however, isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the album.
The product is just as good when he’s not singing, as with the dramatic trumpet flourishes that finish “The Suffering of Pepe O’Malley (pt. IV).”It’s possible such oddities are an attention-grabbing technique on Rutledge’s part, but if so, he really needn’t have bothered. The puzzling lyrics are more annoying than intriguing and his voice and melodies are strong enough that he should be able to succeed based on them alone.