El Perro Del Mar (the persona of a Swedish musician named Sarah Assbring) conjures memories of Julee Cruise. Cruise is a good singer, she has a vibe, and Angelo Badalamenti's production defintely pushed her onto the good side of creepy. Unfortunately, Cruise was always a bit over-rated, and her music just never really worked for me.
So if Julee Cruise didn't really work, El Perro Del Mar falls flat on her face. Some good elements are there: a perverted interpretation of late '50s / early '60s rock and roll, sparse production that lends itself to late nights on dark roads, and subtle melodic hooks that slither into your subconscious and reappear when you least expect them. But the good elements aren't well-defined, and they can't make up for the album's shortcomings. The lyrics are trite, which is forgivable if English is not her primary language; the instrumental performances are boring, with lots of strumy-strumy-strum guitars that inspire images of an open-mic night in Hell; and the production is bland, and never quite manages to make the jump from dull to creepy.
El Perro Del Mar has potential, but it's not realized on this album. If she can maintain the haunting innocence, while strengthening the songwriting and performances, she might make some incredibly special music. As it is, she's doomed to provide seduction music for mopey rock critics who have wet dreams of new Belle & Sebastian albums.
(A quick nod of appreciation to EPFL for stocking this. Once again, whoever is in charge of music over there is doing a superb job. Keep up the good work!)
The melodic vocal lines are the only reason this scores as high as it does. She needs to write more compelling words (or write in a different language), find some creative yet understated musicians, and hire a producer who understands the perplexing musical relationship between innocence and darkness.
The cover is eye-catching, and gives an idea of what to expect without giving too much away. The inside photo isn't bad, but duplicating it just looks silly. The text on the back of the sleeve is clean and nicely designed.
Listen if you like: Julee Cruise, Heidi Berry, Kristin Hersh's solo albums, Belle & Sebastian
If it were food, it'd be: Those weird little pastries you can get at the Korean market. They're kind of good, but they taste kind of off, too, as if they're missing some crucial ingredient like sugar or flour.