From the Mountain to the Sea (FADER)


Birdmonster performs on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 8 p.m. Admission is $21; call 885-0750 or visit
The Great American Music Hall

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For a magazine touting itself as an adventurous tastemaker, Fader has settled on a surprisingly safe choice for its label arm with Birdmonster. The San Francisco band's follow-up to 2006's blog-hyped No Midnight is catchy yet clean-cut, inexorably tied to frontman Peter Arcuni's fragile singing and heart-on-sleeve ache. From the Mountain to the Sea is an uneven offering, though, split among meandering folk, cathartic rock, and effortless pop. For every song like the jaunty opener "My Life for You" and stripped-down marvel "I Might Have Guessed," there are tracks like the affectedly sung "Born to Be Your Man" and the overwrought "Residue." The band is most arresting when scaled back to Arcuni and not much else, freeing his songwriting from the needless crowding of other elements. Meanwhile, Birdmonster's frontman is best when adopting a lullaby-level coo, not raising his voice in a tired act of emoting.

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