The Malvinas,
I'm Not Like This
(3-Legged Dog, 2002)

The opening lines in "Picture Show" give a preview of the album to come. The lyrics are balanced between maudlin sentiment and precise description. The images flash from the romance's beginning, when she "was emotionally 17," through the changes she wreaked on her life in the name of love. The simple tune grows more complicated, the percussion more intense, as the story deepens.

The Malvinas take a delight in playing around with their styles. "Picture Show" is followed by the playful "Maria," with a folksy tune that contrasts brightly with the dark, urgent opener. The convoluted religious practices of "Maria" dovetail sweetly with "Sister Mary Lou/The Home of St. Francis." The Malvinas take the opportunity provided by this strange love song to make a tune almost fit for '50s bubblegum pop. The humor of this doomed love song is played up even in the lyrics sheet, where they write out the "da da dun" portion of the chorus: unnecessary, but fun.

It's a humor that unfortunately flees the album as they swing through the smoky, bluesy "Resonate" and into "Sepia Tone." "Sepia Tone," along with "Sun Salutation," provides a nice platform for the Malvinas' voices, but not much else. The instrumental work is repetitive and the theme of faded love begins to grow tiresome. The Malvinas do make great use of their voices, which are each unique, and fans of each artist will be able to single her out on the album.

Hearing Beth Cahill trill the brightly defiant "Everyone's an Artist" contrasting Gina Forsyth's plaintive "In The Corner of the Room" drives home how much a voice makes a song. It's not enough to save "W/Out U" from sounding dull; there are just too many songs about breaking up, all told with the same wistful attitude, for "W/Out U" to shine. But "I'm Not Like This" bounces back with "Everyone's an Artist," a song of proud dreams in the face of mass unpopularity. The humor is back in force for "Like This," a protestation against the clumsy goofiness of love. After the heavy lamenting that takes up so much of the album, it's nice to again hear a song with some hope in it. The lover's silly fretting over her atypical behavior hints at a more sincere, frightened kind of vulnerability as love changes her orderly world, but without losing perspective.

I'm Not Like This asks a lot from its audience. Each song requires an investment of attention, a willing injection of sympathy, to deliver its full payoff. With the preponderance of somber material, it's an album you won't always want to get lost in, nor is it one to be wasted on casual listening. But when the Malvinas are given an attentive ear and a thoughtful listener, they give back a multi-hued, seductive drama that will linger long after the last notes fade.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 8 March 2003