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CD Review: Quieting Syrup

Songs About a Sick Boy (Lovitt)

Quieting Syrup is more than just a moniker for Denali bassist Stephen Howard's solo project. It's a perfect description of the 12 tracks on Songs About a Sick Boy. Howard offers mollifying, drowsy ballads that move at the speed of dripping molasses. The deliberate drumming, shimmering guitars, bare-bones production and pillow-talk vocals recall the maudlin beauty of early Pedro the Lion, while Howard's starry-eyed lyrics pay homage to emo's forefathers and sad bastards everywhere. These songs were written over more than a decade, and it's clear the period hasn't been a good one for Howard. Tales of broken hearts, declining health, hospital trips, anxiety and debilitating loneliness pervade the record. Sometimes this makes for powerfully sparse and resonant moments ("Passwords to a Fort Full of Pills," "Winter of Our Discontent," "The Answer Lies in Drinking"); other times, it's simply draining and overindulgent ("So This Is Dying," "Dec. 7th 2003"). Luckily, Howard is a better-than-average songwriter whose most morose compositions transcend mere masochism to become weepy pop. — Matt Whelihan

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