Fire the producer, part two

It’s rarely a good idea to crash an album before it has a chance to start.

That’s not to say slow songs can’t be opening tracks on an album, but if they’re going to be slow, they should also be compelling.

Clocking at 7’18”, the title track of soulsberry’s second full-length album, Stone, could try the patience of even the most tolerant listener.

When the guitars go full tilt, it doesn’t feel like the big gesture it’s supposed to be, and when the song ends, it’s a challenge to stay interested in the rest of the album.

The problem with “Stone”, the song, affects pretty much the entire album — unwise use of reverb.

soulsberry’s last album, The end of vacation, was upfront and tight, capturing the essence of the band’s live presence.

Stone, unfortunately, is bogged down in reverb, and the resulting compressed sound undercuts the band’s writing.

A song like “Close”, a mid-tempo number with majestic moments, sounds like it was recorded in an empty warehouse and loses immediacy because of it.

More up-tempo numbers such as “Friendship” and “Goldstar” sound muddy, and singer Ishizuka Tomohiko is buried under all that bleed.

There’s a sense that soulsberry’s writing on Stone is every bit as catchy as its last outing, but the way the album sounds is distracting even on a subconsious level.

“Forgot, Falling Down” has a nice, simple harmonized chorus. “Kaikyoo” has a straight-forward melody and a great driving pulse. The shuffle beat on “Oasis” feels like early Old ’97s, and on “Jet”, Ishizuka’s singing is downright beautiful.

In order to get to these observations, you have to cut through a haze of lousy production. A band that can write as good as soulsberry deserves far better.