CD Review of Self Help Serenade by Marjorie Fair

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Self Help Serenade
starstarstarstarno star Label: Capitol
Released: 2005
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At first glance, you would think Marjorie Fair was a chick singer/songwriter, but in fact this is a band fronted by a singer/songwriter DUDE, Evan Slamka, who cites the Beach Boys and Elliott Smith among a diverse group of influences. And it’s that kind of diversity that makes Marjorie Fair’s debut on Capitol, Self Help Serenade, something special. This is a record of dreamy pop that is as infectious as it is easy on the ears, and Slamka’s soothing voice can both lull you to sleep and lift you up at the same time.

Throughout this album, there are sprinklings of U2 and Coldplay, but the first two tracks, “Don’t Believe” and “Halfway House,” as well as the closing song, “My Sun is Setting Over Her Magic,” are more reminiscent of early Pink Floyd—and dare I say this—are just a shade beneath anything on Dark Side of the Moon. But the single, “Empty Room,” is more upbeat and has one of the most addictive and sugar-sweet choruses on this record or any other record out there. Slamka also has one of those distinctive voices, ala Kevin Griffin from Better Than Ezra or Chris Martin from Coldplay, and this is evident on “Empty Room” and other tracks such as “How Can You Laugh” and “Stand in the World.” “Waves” is jangly and soaring in a Doves-meets-Coldplay sort of way, and the acoustic “Please Don’t” and “Silver Gun” show that Elliott Smith influence the most.

While the name Marjorie Fair sounds more attractive than Evan Slamka, none of that really matters when the music is this good. The British press was shelling out compliments like “genius” and “brilliant” as Self Help Serenade was released in the U.K. before it was in the States. That might be pushing it a little, but there’s no doubt that Marjorie/Evan has that kind of potential. Meanwhile, just enjoy this for what it is, because there’s plenty to enjoy.

~Jeff Giles