Beauty and Undertow (End Up Records)
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Sept. 21, 2012
Chris McFarlandBeauty and Undertow (End Up Records)
Singer-songwriters are often heralded (or sneered at) for pinning their emotions to their chests in pursuit of a tune. Brooklyn-born/Austin-based Chris McFarland doesn't hide his feelings on this five-song EP, but the guitarist's approach is more measured than maudlin, with melody foregrounded and plainspoken vocals never pushed to hysteria. "Song for Every Girl" and the magnificent "Wild Abandon" charge forward on six-strings, loudly leading the way, like Bob Mould gone alt.country. The atmospheric "Simple, Selfish Plan" drifts on a sea of feedback, as if they were radio waves errantly received following a thunderstorm. With a title like "Cancer" and the presence of emo trio Rainer Maria as backup, you'd think some wallowing and bombastic whine would be in order, but McFarland keeps the performances restrained, as the hurt simmers instead of boiling over. With a clear concept of what makes his gimmickless songs most effective, McFarland wears his heart on his sleeve, but doesn't let it bleed on the carpet.