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Tell Tale Heart 

The Cost of Living

Hiding somewhere within Tell Tale Heart is a great combination-shoegaze/introspective pop band. All the pieces are there: The trio has a clarion-voiced singer, some swirling guitar work and an ace rhythm section. So why is its debut full-length The Cost of Living such a downer when the band clearly wants to take to the sky? For all of the talent evident on the disc, the songs are overstuffed, weighed down with the disappointment and ennui of a singer who struggles to transmit his feelings in a potent way. While there are plenty of emo/sad-bastard lyrics, the music lacks the punch and the vocals lack the grit that make sad songs say so much.

However, although his words may fall flat, singer Joel Dodson is a fine guitarist. The twinkling harmonics that open "Harmony Will Happen" quickly fall away in a crash of power chords before settling into a simple rhythmic groove for the rest of the song. Likewise, bassist Alex Hammond and drummer Andrew Carter step up on this song (and elsewhere) with some nice flourishes. But at nearly five minutes, "Happen" sounds like a great three-minute pop song saddled with two extra minutes of mopery.

Tell Tale Heart finally shows some teeth on "Song for Jeremy," a track that is no less by-the-numbers than the rest, but one that proves that a little swagger (and, God forbid, some positive energy) goes a long way. But like the bulk of the album, Cost ends on a blue note — the same solemn church-organ chord opens the final two tracks, "Survive This" and "Farewell." Either this is a sonic theme meant to tie the songs together or the band is already running out of ways to add even more gravitas to its overburdened sound. Until the fellows in Tell Tale Heart can resolve the heaviness in their hearts with the sky-high atmospherics to which they aspire, the band will stay stuck in the mire.

— Christian Schaeffer

Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130. Email music for more information.

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