(The Real) Tuesday Weld

Where Psyche Meets Cupid (Kindercore)

Some songwriters can't sing about love without the use of noxiously sweet clichés and greeting-card metaphors. Stephen Coates -- aka (The Real) Tuesday Weld -- has a stranger problem. He can't sing about love without pondering death. To wit: his debut full-length, Where Psyche Meets Cupid, a debonair song-cycle about love and its inevitable demise.

Much like l'amour, Where Psyche Meets Cupid is at its best when the beats are highest. On uptempo songs like "I Love the Rain" and "Terminally Ambivalent Over You," Coates exquisitely combines the hissing of old 78 samples with programmed house beats and droll lyrics that he delivers in a hushed tone. These briskly paced songs help keep the overarching story moving along, carrying the narrator from heady infatuation to critical reflection to growing disinterest.

Running beneath the peppy melodies, though, is the ever-present specter of death. On "Daisies," the British singer laments his inevitable expiration date even as he rolls in the flowers with his new love: "The cold earth will claim me/ Wrapping its arms back round the very charms it gave me/ No one will save me/ I know that you would if you could/ But even you will be pushing up the daisies one day soon."

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The grave also pops up in "Anything But Love," "Goodbye Stephen," and "L'Amour et La Morte," and while it may seem gothically melodramatic to equate romance with the Grim Reaper, Coates' gently philosophical songs make the connection an obvious one. It's our own mortality, he argues, that drives us into love's reassuring embrace. Also, death serves as love's great metaphor: a force that can be neither avoided nor controlled, a play with a tragic final act.

That Coates is able to explain such tricky ideas in snappy songs is a credit to his immense talents as a wordsmith. His abilities as a singer, however, are less evident. When the love story slows, as it does on songs like "Asteroids" and "Daisies," the thickly whispered vocals start to feel like a tongue lingering too long in your ear. The claustrophobic lushness of some of the songs may be an intentional storytelling device or -- more likely -- a reflection of Coates' limited vocal range.

Regardless, the bountiful merits of the album far outweigh its shortcomings. With Where Psyche Meets Cupid, Coates has created an insightful and entertaining record documenting the twists and turns of this deadly, confusing thing called love.

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