Jesse Ruben / Caitlin Crosby
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Philly-bred singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben freely confides that he’s done a bit of “obsessing” over his second album, The Ones That Matter—not that such anxiety is evident on the highly accomplished disc, the follow-up to Ruben’s self-released 2008 debut, Aiming for Honesty. Adding full-band accompaniment to his lush, soulful pop-rock, Ruben also stretches impressively as a writer on new album, achieving a near-novelistic sense of character and setting on finely hewn tracks like “A Lack of Armor,” “Bleeker and Sixth,” and “Unbreakable.” His relentless attention to detail pays off handsomely.
With its sophisticated, smoky sonic palette – crafted by producer/co-writer Boots Ottestad (Robbie Williams, Macy Gray) – singer-songwriter/actress Caitlin Crosby’s new seven-song set is a marked departure from her 2009 release, Flawz. “I have a couple of breakup songs,” Crosby says of the material on her evocative new EP. “But the ones I’m most passionate about are about issues that could have an impact on someone’s life, maybe make them feel less alone. And this record doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever done.”
The EP’s diverse, cinematic musical backdrop adds edge and intrigue to Crosby’s lyrics about women who give themselves to undeserving men (the soulfully sad “Save That Pillow”), the emptiness of L.A.’s party-hard club scene (the strutting “Is This the Good Life?”), redemption in the midst of despair (the smoldering, syncopated “Gasoline”; the mountain gospel of “Cracked Me Open”), and, yes, a former flame (the spare, spooky “Boy in the Benz”; the vintage sounding buildup of “Consolation Prize”).