Take all the sentiments you associate with your most heartbreaking love affair: the drama, the beauty, the joy of innocence and the revelation that comes with abandonment—but leave out all the parts that hurt. What you have left is Half the Time, the new Curb Appeal release from New York based Pablo (Paul Schalda with his brother Will, wife Maggie, and the Strandberg brothers.) Rustic and hearty as beef stew, Half the Time is also ethereal and feather-light; it walks the thin line between grace and rough emotion while strumming the crap out of my heartstrings. And there’s that something that happens when people who love each other sing together, something the French call a certain…”I don’t know what.”
“Wall St” starts off the album at a snail’s pace, but demonstrates Paul Schalda’s lyrical precision and the ease with which he evokes musical drama. Songs like “Caller ID” and “Til We Die” are airy but without being flimsy, and the music embodies a delicate balance between harmonies that cut to the core and instrumentation that plays on the fringe. Pablo has indie rock roots in its bones, but comparisons of this album to Pavement are uncalled for…if you want to hear Paul Schalda sound like Pavement, listen to Awek. Here, Schalda’s voice is less agro and more ethereal than Stephen Malkmus’.
Harmonies with his wife Maggie on “Loser Crew” create a singular, dreamlike resonance. None of the songs are dragged out with wandering solos or extraneous add-ons, and the instrumentation is just enough, even if certain tracks are heavily piano-laden. The album as a whole is soft-spoken but insistent, doting but without self-pity, and honeyed without being too saccharine sweet. It’s honest without being sentimental and acoustic without being lame. The only expendable tracks on the whole thing are “Calm Down” and “Words for Free.” The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year”, the sole cover, showcases the boyishness of Paul Schalda’s voice and Will Schalda’s ability to pound on piano keys with surprising elegance. The song ends hastily and a tad off kilter; this is one of many beautiful idiosyncrasies of the album, and they all make the whole more desirable.
Half the Time is wistful but successfully avoids whining and self-pity, too often a pitfall for indie bands that cross over into emo without even knowing it. The album is organic and a little rough, which works to its benefit and gives the music a consistent feeling of raw sincerity. The songs ebb and flow; they are bits of living truths and brief meditations on the cycles of life, love, and loss. The force of feeling in Pablo’s Half the Time could move a sailboat on a windless day. If you don’t like this CD, you are wrong. I recommend it for solo road trips, moments of clarity, peyote sunsets, and gifting to your siblings.
– Lily Cutler