Pablo - Half The Time
Record Label: Curb Appeal
Release Date: October 24th, 2006
Although everything about the packaging screams “Singer-songwriter album”, Half The Time is actually the debut full-length record from a band called Pablo, who hail from Brooklyn, New York (although it is a singer-songwriter album per say as Paul Schalda heads the band). Following a self-released EP that was well received by fans, the band began to attract some attention, most notably that of Seattle KEXP's "John in the Morning". This early attention coupled with their folk influenced sound helped land them support spots on tours with like-minded acts such as Matt Pond PA, Earlimart, Brendan Benson, and Kevin Devine. While the band comes from a major city that is filled with tall buildings, concretes, and honking automobiles, Half The Time sounds like it was recorded well below the Mason-Dixon Line and away from the hustle and bustle of New York life.
The album’s opener, “Wall Street”, wastes no time in introducing the listener to the band’s rustic sound. Sparse guitar melodies accompanied by a harmonica set the tone for the track before Paul Schalda’s gravely vocals enter the mix, sounding much like a world-weary traveler who is finally able to play his songs from the comforts of his own back porch. “Half The Time” has less of a folk influence; instead, the focus is on the more pop oriented guitar strumming and finds Schalda smoothing some of the edges of his gravelly opening performance. Accentuating the mellower acoustic guitar plucking is flourishing piano melodies that add another layer to Pablo’s sound. “Loser Crew” is the bands single, a song that balances the folk influenced style displayed earlier with slick pop smarts. While many of the tracks on the album blended to me, this one song sticks out as the strongest track on the album. An added bonus is that fellow Brooklyn native Kevin Devine makes a guest appearance on this track, a fact that will probably grab most of your attention if nothing else.
For all of those handclap aficionados out there, meet your favorite track on the album, “Focus”. We are not talking five seconds of handclaps either, they can be heard on a significant amount of the track (especially in the beginning and middle parts). “Calm Down” is a hushed ballad that shows Schalda’s vocals at their smoothest, swirling over moderately paced acoustic guitars and complimenting piano melodies. Out of the slower songs on the album, “Calm Down” is the most enjoyable and is benefited by the use of an atmospheric ambience that is prevalent in the track because it softens the melodies for an easy listening feel. Also on Half The Time is a cover of Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year”, which I must admit is my first introduction to the Zombies and on the strength of this cover, I may need to discover more on that band. After focusing more on the melodic indie aspect of their sound for a good portion of the album, Pablo returns to their folk influenced roots to conclude Half The Time.
I will be honest, when I first gave this a quick listen through, I had a feeling I was going to hate this album. The vocals take some getting used to, but after subsequent listens, I found myself thoroughly enjoying Half The Time. Listeners looking for a good folk influenced indie album or an acoustic driven project may find a lot of enjoyable moments on Half The Time if they are willing to be patient and acclimate themselves with Schalda’s vocals. This debut shows a lot of promise and a bright future, and if my recommendation is not enough, perhaps Kevin Devine’s stamp of approval will sway your decision (Devine wrote the bands bio and is friends with the band).