April 16, 2012 - Good Hang
Having played lead guitar in Dashboard Confessional since 2002, for 10 years John Lefler has imbued Chris Carrabba’s songs with texture and heart. With Shout Fire, his second solo release, he delivers six songs that prove him a good songwriter in his own right. There is a strong sense that this is a labor of love, paying homage to that which has inspired him (hence elements of classic pop, rock, folk, indie and country) while doing his best to not just recycle old ideas.
Lefler has a keen ear for a weightless melody, and the stripped-down production allows the songs to exist on their own merit. The most graceful and moving is “The Good Life.” Built upon a plaintive strum and tinged with melancholy, there are hints of Burt Bacharach in Lefler’s vocal melody, carrying with it a seductive, pacifying effect. More of the same would have been just fine; however, the more upbeat tracks are also affecting. The spirited yet restrained surge of the title track sinks its hooks in on first exposure, while “Dead Technology” is a little more urgent. The brooding strains of “Shelter In Place” add some welcome darkness to proceedings, while the folky “Broken People” and country-flavored closer “Truth Be Told” are nice if ultimately skippable inclusions.
While Shout Fire is good, it is a bit on the inoffensive side, which may make it a little bland for some tastes. Still, its charms should extend beyond the borders of the Dashboard Confessional faithful, and the stronger tracks merit space on any mellow playlist.