Karen Zanes "Radio Flyer EP"
The catch-all term "lo-fi" is rapidly becoming an excuse for a multitude of sins. Songs sound half-finished? Fear not, it's lo-fi. Lack of instrumental interest? No problem, it's lo-fi. Arrangements and production lacking finesse? Don't worry, it's (you've guessed it) lo-fi.
Karen Zane's début release comes described as "lo-fi dream-pop... with an underlying Americana/back porch feel" and it is guilty of all these offences.
Doubtless the songs are aiming at simplicity but sadly they achieve only banality, coming across as aimless and lacking anything resembling dynamics. Meanwhile, Zane's vocals are pleasant enough, but largely remain whispery and drenched in reverb, giving them a spectral quality which is rarely able to rise above the unremitting plod of her acoustic guitar. The overall effect is like a cut-price Cowboy Junkies, especially on the ill-advised cover of Mystery Train.
There are a couple of redeeming features, such as the remarkably pretty refrain of 'Moonlight Lady and the much-needed twinkly lead guitar work of Frank Butkus. However, it is far from enough to save the release and whatever glimmers of potential they suggest, a great deal of work is needed yet.