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Music for Tourists

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Album Review

The novelty of the sensitive male alto wore off long ago; yes, the idea of the doe-eyed boy who sings of love in all its forms, when done well, can still certainly hold a great deal of appeal, but when it seems formulaic and forced, it's wholly forgettable. While Chris Garneau, the slight, piano-playing singer/songwriter with the high, breathy voice, is not an untalented musician, he unfortunately does little to set himself apart from the rest of the cadre. In fact, the most notable thing about him may be how relatively straightforward his music is. Produced by none other than Duncan Sheik, Garneau's debut, Music for Tourists, is composed of slow piano-and-string indie ballads that, though they occasionally threaten to turn into something powerful, more often stay with the same barely breathing, minor-keyed, quarter-noted chord progressions that stick and falter in their own reflection like dull scissors cutting through contact paper. Garneau does periodically employ a kind of super-syncopated and super-enunciated twee phrasing, like in "Castle Time," when he sings, "My teacher died/Even the frying pan cried," that distinguishes him and his über-preciousness and gives him some individual character, but this is more bothersome and affected than endearing. The few moments where passion overtakes him and his voice drops and fills out, like in "Sad News" or "Relief," are more honest and bare than anytime Garneau sings sorrowfully "I'm sorry he brought us there/Me, crying in my underwear," and give a welcome glimpse of the person behind the sometimes-corny, sometimes-insightful lyrics (the rather inane "I love the way you dance.../Don't you miss your chance" coupled with the brilliant "I didn't go to see the city/I went to see it around you" in "Relief"). But too much of the album gets caught in the shallow grave of introspection, struggling half-heartedly to pull itself out, already resigned to unremarkable misery, just like everyone else. Perhaps the most telling moment of this in on the bonus track, a cover of Elliott Smith's "Behind the Bars." Where Smith was able to convey very real-sounding and often subtle layers of despair in his voice, Garneau just seems like he's trying to be fragile, barely reaching the high notes and affecting an almost-Irish accent on some of the vowels, simply because that's what he thinks he's supposed to do. He's suffering from a lack of presence, if anything, which makes Music for Tourists, with all its bright spots, a cumbersome affair.

Customer Reviews

A newfound beauty...

Chris who? I saw Duncan Sheik at SXSW the other night, and Chris came out and sang backup on a couple songs...and looked awkward and uncomfortable. He didn't meld with Duncan all that well, either. Then Duncan said Chris was going to play a couple songs for us - WHAT?! - I paid for Duncan, I get some dude? Well, I'm an idiot. He sat down at the piano (which was right in front of me, literally, I was in the front row) and blew me away with Baby's Romance. He also said Duncan Sheik produced the CD (and it all makes sense now). Chris has a unique sound that takes simplistic piano to an amazing level. The CD is very solid, and I enjoy 10 of the 13 immensely (a great proportion in my opinion). He has such a soft and calming voice, and yet when he belts it out you see that his vocal talent goes far beyond the weak, baby-boy sound that dominates the CD. I like that baby-boy sound, but his voice is more dynamic than most of the CD would imply. For example, Black & Blue starts very quietly and builds to Chris really singing it out. Nice work, Chris, and I am honored to saw I got to see you perform - it won't be the last time.


I had never heard of Chris before. I came across his music simply by chance. I bought the CD about a week ago and have been listening to it over and again. Perhaps it is his voice or maybe his moving lyrics. Whatever it is, this album has quickly risen to the top of my playlist. I have let at least ten people listen to this album on my ipod and each of them swore that they were going home to purchase it that night.


There are no words to describe Chris Garneau. He is a great artist, with an amazing style. This cd is worth the money!


Born: New Jersey

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

After playing around Brooklyn for a while, singer/songwriter Chris Garneau was signed to Absolutely Kosher in the spring of 2006, after a recommendation from Jamie Stewart, whose band, Xiu Xiu, was on the label. A piano player since age five, Garneau released his debut, Music for Tourists, a slow, sad collection of sparsely arranged...
Full Bio
Music for Tourists, Chris Garneau
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