Mike Evin | Life as a Lover (s/r)

Evin shares Paul McCartney’s knack for effortless melody, and also his tendency toward rah-rah optimism.

Life as a Lover, the fifth album from Torontonian Mike Evin, is a wholesome and radio-ready collection of soft rock–inflected piano pop. It has a power-pop soul, but by making no attempt to indulge it or adopt a bit of a raucous edge, feels staid and hemmed in, as if it’s dressed in clothes its mom picked out.

That said, Life as a Lover offers plenty of buttoned-down joys. Enchanting album opener “Have I Ever Loved?” sounds like the byproduct of Hot Chip and Ben Folds being fused together in a grisly transporter accident…although with 90% of the wit left trapped in the pattern buffer. “If There Is a One” channels fellow Canadian Tobias Jesso, Jr.’s piano-based 1970s L.A. singer-songwriter vibes, but removes any trace of moody mope and replaces it with synthesizer squonks and handclaps. Lovely, low-key standout “If I Stay This Lonely” is highlighted by Evin’s memorable phrasing (love the occasional slip into falsetto) and sighing brass, and elsewhere, frisky, blue-eyed soul–inflected tracks like “Shake Well” and “Lose My Grip” bring to mind a less acerbic Joe Jackson.

Evin shares Paul McCartney’s knack for effortless melody, and also his tendency toward rah-rah optimism. If you’ve already got a spring in your step, this will probably come off as charming. But if you’re having an “urge to kill…rising” kind of day (or life!), you’ll likely sneer at Evin with the same disdain usually reserved for the incessantly upbeat people in your office chirping “Good morning!” at you before you’ve had the amount of caffeine necessary to even tolerate such behavior. Certain songs, such as the admittedly catchy “Al Green,” are made of nothing but this unholy glee club pep, and make you want to grumble and reach for your favorite sarcastic slogan–emblazoned coffee mug.

Life as a Lover is burnished and earnest, pleasant but a bit too saccharine, and at 34 minutes, just about the perfect amount of this sort of music. Your tolerance may depend on your disposition—not to mention how much of its buoyant cheerfulness you can stand on any given day. C+ | Mike Rengel

RIYL: Joe Jackson on a TV singing competition; those clean-cut young go-getters in Hooray for Everything; fun. (both the concept and the band)

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