Paul Duncan Be Careful What You Call Home

[Hometapes; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: full on acousto/electro ambient folk
Others: Smog, Jim O’Rourke, Jim Guthrie, Iron & Wine

Paul Duncan. Now here's a guy you could invite to your Christmas party. He's smart, interesting, and talented. He might also bring a good bottle of wine and a few good-lookin' girlies. He'd give the person he picked for secret Santa a copy of his new CD, Be Careful what You Call Home, but they wouldn't mind because it's so fuckin' good.

Then you'd sit around and listen to the album while he discussed the inspiration for each song. When the elegant acoustic roundup "Tired and Beholden" comes on, you'll argue over who the "friends" that "don't look at our face" are. Be careful though, because Duncan comes from the Bill Callahan school of song writing (and singing for that matter). He wouldn't want you to miss lines like, "Just confess/ We are parodies of ourselves."

However, Callahan would never think to do a folk album this innovative. Its breathy, sing-song vocals and normative acoustic guitar are intensified by computer effects. Duncan doesn't sing or play guitar on some of the songs, opting to experiment with ambient electronica a la Radiohead.

Duncan does not confine himself to the Callahan school of instrumentation either. His melodies are high-soaring blips of found and newly-constructed sound. The acoustic guitar pattern of the instrumental track "Manhattan Shuffle" is birthed out of glistening electro bell sounds; the fluid bass on another instrumental track, "Toy Bass," is heightened by rainfall guitar; and the trickling subtlety of the guitar in "(Aria)(Cave Song)" gives nods to Loren Connors and Charalambides.

Be Careful What You Call Home has its share of missteps, but they are few and far between and easily glossed over. The cool shuffle and Bolan-lite delivery of "Content to Burn" help distract the listener from some of Duncan's more amateurish lyrics. The laptop effect on "Manhattan Shuffle" sounds like a man pissing in an alleyway, but it leads in to one of the most beautiful tracks on the album.

Paul Duncan is a genuine talent. Be Careful What You Call Home is sure to be embraced by hipsters and poets alike. Invite this guy to your Christmas party before he gets too big.

1. In a Way
2. Tired and Beholden
3. The Night Gives No Applause
4. Toy Bell
5. You Look Like an Animal
6. Toy Piano
7. Manhattan Shuffle
8. Toy Bass
9. Oil in the Fields
10. (Aria)(Cave Song)
11. Content to Burn
12. This Old House
13. Riverbed

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