Touch me, feel me

Subject Bias tell you When, Where, and How
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  July 21, 2008
JUSTINVANSOEST.jpg

I’ll Tell You When, Where, and How to Feel | Released by Subject Bias | at One Longfellow Square, in Portland | July 19
After three increasingly good discs in 2004, 2005, and 2006, Subject Bias took 2007 off, but return with eight songs in 2008 that continue to show that Kevin Ouellette is one of the area’s best songwriters. He knows how to title a disc, too. Already fond of 2006’s And This Is Why You Can’t Have Nice Things, I have to admit I’m now partial to this year’s I’ll Tell You When, Where, and How to Feel as one of the best album titles to roll across my desk.

You can get yourself a copy — free — by showing up July 19 to Subject Bias’ CD-release show at One Longfellow Square. Or just send Ouellette three bucks and he’ll send you a disc back. He’s generous that way.

Part of the new breed of hook-’em-and-reel-’em-in musicians who see CDs as loss leaders, Ouellette needn’t imply that his tunes aren’t valuable. As he’s sculpted his sound, riffing off Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, and the stars of alt-country, he’s managed to create an eclectic corner of the music world to reside in, a place where a quick wit and snippets of melody can grow into full-bodied orchestral rock numbers that are as enchanting as they are intriguing.

On this newest release, Ouellette has once again mined some of the best talent on the Seacoast, from As Fast As’ Zach Jones (for his “bah-bah-bah” backing vocals, not guitar) to badass solo cellist Kristen Miller. Best of all, he’s found in Stephanie Babirak a pianist and backing vocalist who complements just about everything he does wonderfully. When, in the opening track “Safety,” Ouellette is backed by Babirak as he sings “how lucky of a man I am,” you have no problem believing it.

And that’s maybe Subject Bias’ strongest suit. As waves of sound in lush indie-pop arrangements wash over you, it’s so easy to believe every bit of anguish or hope Ouellette throws out there. Whether it’s world-weary Evan Dando bitterness on “Over” or the self-deprecating Jeff Tweedy irony on “Course,” Ouellette throws himself into every role, eventually finishing with “Sun,” a tune that strips away all of his help and leaves us just his voice and a guitar for a 1:33 ghost of a song.

In “Drowning,” he sings, “I’m sorry that I hurt you/It’s the least that I could do.” And you do feel like thanking him.

Sam Pfeiflecan be reached atsam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

On the Web
Subject Bias: www.subjectbias.com

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