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LUCINDA BLACK BEAR -- 'CAPO MY HEART' AND OTHER BEAR SONGS

Dark, atmospheric and monotonous

Lucinda Black Bear.jpg

If nothing else, the debut disc from Lucinda Black Bear boasts what has to be one of the most accurate titles in indie rock history. Which is to say that, yes, 'Capo My Heart' and Other Bear Songs (Eastern Spurs) not only contains cuts that touch on taming said wild beasts, but also embodies the pretentiousness that its name suggests.

The record finds singer and producer Christian Gibbs, erstwhile purveyor of melancholic twang (under the name C. Gibbs), leading instrumentalists from his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., through 11 tracks' worth of dark, atmospheric folk-rock that is drenched in cello and violin. His backing musicians create rich soundscapes steeped in gloom, and Gibbs emotes just as impressively, stretching out comfortably to hit high notes, particularly on the dreamy "You Got It Blue."

Unfortunately, the downcast lyrics and consistently slow tempos result in a monotonous listen before long. "Give me God, give me death/The eye, the heart that's hollow," Gibbs sings on "Winterland," a fine summation of the bleak feeling that envelops the album. If the seriousness is overdone, at least that song can be listened to with a straight face; elsewhere, contrasted with such an ultra-depressing soundtrack, lines such as "I fought the bear with my bare hands" come off as silly, fit for a children's album.

The only moments that pass for variety are the two forgettable instrumentals near the disc's end: "Waking Song," which essentially is a minute-and-a-half of rumbling noise; and "Hibernation Song (Blue it Got You)," which features persistently wailing strings and clocks in at a please-kill-me length of 4:36.

And with that, the record closes with a thud, and without an explanation of Gibbs' apparent fascination with bears. Here's hoping Lucinda Black Bear does not attempt to expound on it on a future recording, and instead that if the versatile Gibbs continues to forge his identity, that his next release is an entirely different animal.

-- By George Henn

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