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Up to this point, Better Than Ezra has brought us three albums: the folk-rock of Deluxe, the hard metal-influenced Friction Baby, and the electronica inspired How Does Your Garden Grow? Their fourth offering, Closer, ties together Better Than Ezra's various musical explorations in a testament to the band's musicianship and continuing self-exploration.
"Misunderstood" is a mix of old Ezra folk with a dash of electronic pop thrown in. Frontman Kevin Griffin's endearingly youthful vocals blend with the track's synthesized flute for a clever opening jam.
"Closer" is the sophisticated Better Than Ezra that so many fell in love with after Deluxe. Its gentle, relaxing vocals are balanced by David Campbell's string orchestration to produce one of Better Than Ezra's most powerful songs on any album.
The spare acoustic musicality of "A Lifetime" is another piece of classic Ezra, with no electronic tricks or smashing guitar riffs. It's a jam to relax to as Griffin's clear vocals charge ahead of the simple chords and rhythms. "Get You In" was written in the same vein, another folksy tune to balance the album's offerings.
The inclusion of Beck's mixer DJ Swamp on "Extra Ordinary" and "Recognize" bring a hip, up-tempo feel to Better Than Ezra's music that, while discouraging to diehard fans in its pop sound, never compromises the talented musical core of the group. Swamp's mixing gives "Extra Ordinary" a touch of laid-back funk, but is overshadowed by Griffin's slide guitar work and rapcore vocals on "Recognize."
Better Than Ezra does make a few sacrifices to the gods of pop, however. "Rolling (feat. Toddy)" is a cheerful, energetic piece whose pop chorus is at definite odds with any of Ezra's previous offerings. "Juarez" belongs in a class of its own, an airy, ethereal piece with lots of muted vocals and reverb.
"I Do" is a fitting closer to the album. The combination of subtle bass work, pop guitar hooks, and plaintive vocals could've come off any Better Than Ezra album and points to the one firm musical identity the band has always maintained.
At its core Better than Ezra is the same it ever was. The inclusion of a few pop rock hooks does nothing to diminish the potency of Ezra's music, and may finally bring the Louisiana boys the recognition they deserve.
By Isaac Clemens
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|Performer:||Better Than Ezra|
|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H):||5.00 x 1.00 x 6.00 Inches|
|8.||Get You In|
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