EL PERRO DEL MAR: From The Valley To The Stars [The Control Group]

There’s an old saw about sophomore records: You get a decade to write your first record and four months to write the second. El Perro Del Mar’s self-titled debut LP was among the best releases of 2006. Despite being culled from various singles and EPs (some dating back to more than two years), the sonically and thematically cohesive album marked the arrival of a classy, timeless and mesmerizing pop talent in sole band member Sarah Assbring. How ironic, then, that when Assbring intentionally sets out to craft a full-length statement the results are so desultory. On El Perro Del Mar, Assbring displayed a gift for trimming all lyrical fat and getting to the matter at hand, repetition be damned, to wonderful and wondrous effect. On From The Valley To The Stars, Assbring edits her songs and arrangements so severely that there’s barely a chorus left, while mystifyingly allowing multiple aimless instrumental interludes to interrupt throughout. Something is amiss here, and it can only be chalked up to a lack of time and focus. From The Valley has some fine moments, but it looks awfully unflattering in the light of its less distracted and infinitely sharper predecessor. []

—Bret Tobias