Natureboy - Natureboy (Own)

Keeping the backing music suitably spartan and Sara Kermanshahi’s voice center stage is an intelligent plan but Natureboy seem to be under the impression that weaving loops and samples with acoustic folk is creative of a synthesis. It isn't, it's already an over-crowded genre on its own.

Released Jul 7th, 2010 via Own / By Keiron Phelan
Natureboy - Natureboy (Own) Natureboy is, at heart, singer-songwriter Sara Kermanshahi, a Brooklyn based first generation American of Iranian descent. She exists, musically, in the neighbourhood of Cat Power, Bon Iver and Mazzy Star and, taking that context as a 'given', this (debut) album pushes a fair number of the correct buttons. She certainly possesses an ear-catching and pleasingly reedy voice with the intriguing idiosyncratic tic of dragging her vocal line, somewhat micro tonally, across melodic phrases (possibly a musical reflection of her ancestry), heard at its best on the opening brace of 'Curses Fired' and 'Pariah', also the album’s stand out songs. She handles her own particular brand of lyrical angst with a nice mix of passion and coolness and is no slouch in the guitar arpeggiation department. The album contrives to create a consistent atmosphere of slow to mid-tempo reflectiveness and, in principle, keeping the backing music suitably spartan and Kermanshahi’s voice to center stage seems an intelligent plan.
But woe betides the album whose press release describes its musical arrangements as 'intelligent' and 'tastefully woven'. This can be a cipher for 'frequently dull' or 'rather unoriginal'. While, at times, the music resembles the lovelier parts of the Cowboy Junkies (seeking musical touchstones, here) and some of the electric guitar figures are graceful in a Sylvain Chauveau mode, it too often dallies with the (horribly over rated) Red House Painters or is suggestive of how American Music Club might have sounded had they sobered up, chilled out and rather lost passion for it all. One specific example of a good touch is the beautifully judged slide guitar part on 'Over And Out' but, by and large, over restrained convention reigns here and throws more weight upon Kermanshahi’s basic song shapes than some of them can bear. Natureboy also seem to be under the impression that weaving loops and samples with acoustic folk is creative of a synthesis. It isn’t; it’s already its own, well established and rather crowded, genre and has been for some time.
Paradoxically this, latter, fact will probably turn people towards rather than away from the album. Seemingly provoked by the ever increasing quantity of new releases a strange comfort zone continues to evolve; audiences (musicians, too) gravitating towards new music that closely resembles the old music that they already adhere to (the ubiquitous 'if you liked this you might like these' and 'also sounds like' lists standing testimony to and facilitating the process). This tends to dull the artists’ perception of how closely they are approximating the general contours of their given genre and that their own originality is, frequently, occupying far too narrow a space within it. And while Natureboy are far from the worst example of this syndrome I’ve come across they do, all too often, fall victim to it.
But, few will complain this much and I’d like to like this album more than I do. For my part, the voice is there, the songs are getting close. But I’d definitely recommend a short course of musical 'de-programming”'and, next time, leave the producer out of the band.