Michael McFarland – A Failed Breakup

Shumate says the EP is “an encounter pleasant enough in itself, but with little to recommend a long or intentional visit.”

Luke Goddard

out of 10

Michael McFarland
A Failed Breakup
June 20, 2013
Spontaneously Combustible Records

Do you remember that girl you knew in your senior year of high school? Maybe you even dated her briefly — she experienced emotional transports whenever Coldplay came on the radio; that one Jason Mraz CD was perpetually in her player because all that “mainstream pop music” was just too cliché for her; a few months later, the Garden State soundtrack literally changed her life.

A Failed Breakup by Michael McFarland would have been one of her favorite records.

A bite-size piece of acoustic guitar-pop, the EP’s five tracks clock in, together, at about 22 minutes, and obliquely explore McFarland’s experience of (for lack of a more original way of putting it) failure in splitting up with his unnamed muse. Despite the promising subject matter, the EP seems less concerned, lyrically, with poignancy than with catchiness, sticking to standard stories about waiting lonely by telephones and metaphors about lighthouses, interjecting plenty of “oh-oh, oh-ohs,” and never really venturing out to anything that any veteran of contemporary popular music hasn’t heard before.

Though the recording doesn’t offer much in the way of originality, it has plenty of polish. Perhaps the best thing about the EP is McFarland’s voice, which is clear and pleasant, slipping on a couple of occasions into as seamless a falsetto as I’ve ever heard, and while A Failed Breakup won’t be changing the conventions of acoustic pop, it executes the established form quite well with its chord-y guitar and relatively simple drums. The overall flow of the EP is well managed, and the tightly controlled speed-up-and-slow-down rhythm of the collection goes down quite smoothly except for the reggae-inspired verses of the title track, which come across as jarring and out-of-place (though it bears mentioning here that this reviewer loathes reggae, and may therefore be unfairly biased).

In summation, A Failed Breakup is a perfectly acceptable recording. It’s smooth and catchy and inoffensive, and it definitely accomplishes what it sets out to do a whole lot better than the majority of the offerings of men with acoustic guitars, but in an age in which so much really excellent music is virtually universally available, “acceptable” simply doesn’t warrant a whole lot of attention. If you can, imagine running into that girl we were talking about earlier, maybe while out shopping — having a brief conversation, getting caught up in a very vague way on the past ten years, talking about how you should get together sometime with no intention of following through. This EP is something like that: An encounter pleasant enough in itself, but with little to recommend a long or intentional visit.

-Brendon Shumate, November 18, 2013
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