Review: Booksmart - "State Fair"

Booksmart - State Fair
(2013 Self-Released)
"Whispery, lo-fi pop."

 Booksmart is a solo act consisting of Boston's Ben Wiley, the latest addition to New England's whispery, lo-fi pop scene. In the vein of Lou Barlow's Sentridoh, the 9 songs that make up Booksmart's debut album, State Fair are generally terse and acoustic-based. Wiley's tunes sound a bit more polished than the fuzzy warblings of similar acts like Julia Brown and R.L. Kelly, yet share the same strict adherence to stark simplicity: although few songs pass the two minute mark, you can find at least one thing to enjoy about each.

Opening the album are the handclaps and percussive strums of "Clipperton Suite", a Pavement-goes-acoustic sort of track that veers from charmingly understated indie pop to an upbeat guitar solo in quick succession. That's sort of a motif throughout State Fair. Sparse, melancholy tunes take on new tones when certain subtleties creep their way into the mix. Banjo twangs bleed through the nervous vibes of "Safe", while the instrumental "Godot" slowly morphs into the mesmerizing centerpiece of the album, built around bursts of distortion and a chunky, plodding bassline. There's also a cover of Elvis Depressedly's "My Lai", eschewing the strings of the original for a keyboard and drum machine, two instruments that always sound great in a lo-fi setting. "Bliss" has to be my top selection here. It's well mixed, as the percussion has a perfect bite to it and the guitars drip with reverb and delay. State Fair is a solid debut album with only a few small missteps. I'd look out for a sophomore effort, as Booksmart shows great potential and a wealth of fresh ideas.