"And if I leave this town and move away, will it change the world at all?" muses the Seximals' Anthony Barilla on Small Songs' opening track, "Consciousness Explained." Barilla might have more invested in those lyrics than most. He's spent the better part of 2007 between Houston and Kosovo, where his wife keeps a watchful eye on the legal system on behalf of a European legal oversight organization. Barilla needn't have wondered about the impact of his absence; about six months after he left the country, local theater group Infernal Bridegroom Productions, for whom he had provided musical direction, called it quits for wholly unrelated reasons. Small Songs, meanwhile, finds itself somewhere between Arcade Fire's orchestral grandeur and baroque-pop leanings, Silver Jews' quirky folk-pop and the lyrical immediacy and intimacy of Bill Callahan. Barilla's singing is reminiscent of the lulling lower octaves and poetic phrasing of Stephen Merritt. The record's one true oddball, "The Year of the Drought," with its quirky blues scratch and vaguely unsettling spoken-word storytelling, would be perfectly at home in the Tom Waits songbook. Much like a ripe melon, Small Songs is heavy for its size.
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