Jeremy Toback has everything that could make him highly irritating.
Navel-gazing lyrics? Check. Guitar-driven, acoustic-pop? Check. Untrained, monotone voice? Check. Oxymoronic album title? Check.
So what stops this younger, Bob Dylan-wannabe from crossing the line to whiny sop on the level of Shawn Mullins and the Goo Goo Dolls?
For one thing, Toback is not heavy-handed with wearing his bleeding heart on his sleeve. If anything, his limited-range vocals — which do owe a helluvalot to the aforementioned Dylan — have not an ounce of “pity-me” sincerity. To that end, Toback is actually listenable. (Do you get the impression, sometimes, that some singers could belt about how happy they are and still sound like they’re complaining?)
Toback’s songs are also rather well-written. Despite his voice, which is charming because of its monotone, Toback squeezes out some memorable tunes. Although his verses tend to be one-note fillers, Toback nails his hooks on his choruses. Check out the successive tracks “Come on Down” and “Green Light” for examples.
Toback certainly takes the songwriting part of the singer-songwriter tag quite seriously, and it shows with this debut. He could have been unbearable, but he isn’t.