On 2004's I'll Be Here Awake, Arthur Yoria quickly established himself as one of the Houston area's most interesting musicians. His tales of lovelorn angst set against melodic pop made for an infectious combination that drew fans worldwide, and his live shows — whether full-band powerhouses, stripped-down, electronic-backed performances or simple acoustic-guitar sets — practically made him a household name among local music fans. Since then, however, he's steadily grown away from the all-out pop of his earlier work; 281, available only at shows, furthers the different direction of 2007's Handshake Smiles. Yoria's tongue-in-cheek humor is intact on 281's "The Libyans" ("I just want to play my golden fiddle"), "I Don't Wear Red" ("I'm the one who stays when you leave, but I'm the one who gets free beer") and the all-too-personal "Don't Mess With My Rectum If You Like My Erection." But the experimental pop storytelling of "I'm The Cold One," the sedate "Tell Me I'm Wrong" and stoner-rific "Blue" — not to be confused with Yoria's similarly mellow ode to Xanax, live favorite "Little Blue" — are 281's high points. Recalling his past anxiety and seemingly constant relationship issues, the songs are obvious outlets for Yoria's insecurities; he sings about what everyone feels but hardly anyone ever discusses. 281 shows a maturing Yoria comfortable enough with himself to again push the boundaries of his music.
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