Doing the Steps
An intense classical education can often work wonders for a pop artist. Great training has the capacity to lift a songwriter to even greater heights. Regina Spektor, Florence Welch, and Matt Bellamy all make phenomenal use of their classical training; folding complex and intricate work into memorable two-minute tracks. Then, there are those whose training simply gets in the way.
Rachel Zeffira is the lady half of Cat’s Eyes; a duo project with Faris Badwan of The Horrors. Her first full-length solo work The Deserters sounds a lot like a Jane Campion soundtrack with a barely-there Enya vocal track on top. If you’re looking for the bite or dirty indie feel of Cat’s Eyes, you’re out of luck. Zeffira works her classical training to the fullest here, delivering ten sleepy tracks that rarely speak above a whisper.
It’s not that The Deserters is a bad record by any means – it’s obviously the work of a skilled musician. It sounds as if Zeffira is displaying her technique, rather than creating music , like watching a dancer “do steps” instead of dance. “Silver City Days,” with its constant (and impressive) tinkling piano sound and cooing vocal line sounds like a Hanon exercise. “Break the Spell” contains a (rare) drumbeat, plus plenty of harp action. “Front Door” seems the most traditional pop song, but bears an unfortunate resemblance to Regina Spektor – if Regina were to whisper-sing live in an echo chamber accompanied by a gaggle of flautists.
Though Zeffira’s technical talent is undeniable, the composition of The Deserters lacks liveliness, and never leaves the territory of relaxation sounds. Alterna-pop this safe and quiet would be better classified as easy listening.