Sunday, April 13, 2014

Album Review: Pure Fiction by Eric Hutchinson

Almost two years ago to the week, Eric Hutchinson released his sophomore album, Moving Up Living Down. And now, he returns. Each time Eric Hutchinson comes out with a new album, there's a moment in which one has to wonder: "Is this the album where he tips over that line into the mainstream? Is this the sellout album?" Yet despite his early album entitled "Before I Sold Out" and despite the fact that he was signed to Warner for a while, Hutchinson manages to maintain integrity to his central sound.

The first track and lead single is the most uplifting track on the album, "Tell The World." "Tell The World" sounds like a hit, and I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate that this song wasn't created until after his departure from Warner. On a mainstream release, "Tell The World" could have become a song that got overplayed on the radio. "A Little More" is the second track and single, and possibly the actual best song on the album. "A Little More" has a power pop feel unparalleled by anything else on the album. It probably has the most energy of any of the songs on Pure Fiction. It's catchy, pop-based, and yet soulful.

Right around "Forever," I started to worry that my fears about this album being a sell-out were founded. "Forever" has very few redeeming qualities. It's incredibly repetitive, with something more false than "wall-of-sound" going on in the backing track, and for some reason what sounds like a music box. But "I Got the Feelin Now" is a much better track, with genuine complexity and direction. "I Got the Feelin Now" is a smooth blend of disco and early 80s synths, with a pleasing rhythm.

"Goodnight Goodbye" assures us that this is the Eric Hutchinson that we've grown to know with the heartfelt vocals that Hutchinson specializes in. "Goodnight Goodbye" is followed by the pleasant "Love Like You," which starts with some synthesized strings before jumping back to the sound of Sounds Like This, complete with keys and backing vocals.

Moving forward, "I Don't Love U" is catchy and well-arranged, although I'm not sure whether the narrator is to be despised or sympathized with. "Sun Goes Down" is a decent, but ultimately skippable story song. It's almost the pop-folk version of a country song, in which the narrator receives yet another a postcard from his runaway wife, and seems finally able to let go of the memory of her.

The remaining two tracks on the album are for some reason labeled as acoustic, which seems wrong as a label for official album tracks somehow, but they're both decent songs. "Forget About Joni" has a Spanish feel and recounts the tale of a woman who seduces all the men, but is actually a lesbian. "Forget About Joni" is the home of the standout couplet on the album "She's the kind of a girl who wants a girl in her bed//you can give her your heart she wants your sister's instead." The final track isn't quite as strong. "Shine on Me" is a good tune, but not notable in any way.

Although it's a hodgepodge of styles and feelings, Pure Fiction proves that Eric Hutchinson still has it. It isn't as smooth or solid as his previous two albums, but it also has some of the highest-quality production so far. If you like top twenty hits, Pure Fiction might be a good gateway into Eric Hutchinson, but if you're more a fan of Motown or indie pop, this album should probably be a last resort.

Eric Hutchinson is a singer-songwriter.

Pure Fiction can be purchased here.

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