Juviley - How To Miss The Ground
Jay Mansfield 22/02/2008
Drummers as singer-songwriters? It's happened before, with mixed results. Marvin Gaye managed it seamlessly, Dave Grohl has had mixed reactions, and the less said about Phil Collins the better.
Juviley is the pseudonym of Israeli musician Or Zubalsky (this is the third or fourth album I've reviewed recently by an individual masquerading under an assumed nom de plume; what's wrong with the name you were given?), who moved from behind his drum kit around the same time he relocated to New York from Israel.
Somewhat surprisingly for a songwriter whose primary instrument is the drums, percussion doesn't dictate Juviley's soundscapes, which are instead informed by understated acoustic guitars, with only occasional accompaniment from lap steel guitar, piano or brass.
Vocally, he's blessed with an in-tune if nasally voice, which on occasion sails too close to being Stuart Murdoch for comfort. The comfort zone being of course not being reminded that Belle & Sebastian's dynamic and rambunctious songs are a much more appealing listen. And the 'Muted Charm' is one or two chromosomes away from being 'Dear Diary' by Travis.
Still, there are positives here. Zubalsky has an ear for a pleasant melody and arrangement, and if you're looking for a low key, lo-fi set of songs to suit a particular mood, you could go far worse. That however may prove to be the album's main failing; with no real hooks or points of access, How To Miss The Ground become less an artist's statement of intent and more a compilation of homogenous songs that could at some point in the future soundtrack a television commercial. For mobile phones, perhaps.