Ruining Perfectly Good Songs
Recorded @ Zippah, 2002
Produced by Jaime d'Almeida with Pete Weiss

 

Another finely rendered set of amiable pop-rock from The Timbre Project, a/k/a Jaime D'Almeida and a host of guest players. D'Almeida, whose debut solo CD, Free Souvenirs, made a big DU splash in 2000, keeps a steady hand on tiller throughout this 17-song album, gliding effortlessly from Eitzel-like depression ("Write This Song") to psych-tinged indie-rock ("My Wasted") and bouncy Britpop ("Message Received, Zero Distortion"). Equal parts tuneful, heartfelt and intelligent, Ruining Perfectly Good Songs is a balm to pop fans of all stripes (extra credit if you dig The Bears).

 

 

The second album from the Timbre Project demonstrates a rapidly maturing songwriting acumen from Jaime d'Almeida, who penned all tracks. Each song is an encapsulated slice of personal observation — about relationships, friendships, character studies, and self-reflection. There's a light indie pop sense laced throughout — catchy hooks, good melodies, puffy harmonic backgrounds, and lilting percussion. d'Almeida is assisted by a small army of ample Boston-area musicians. "Message Received, Zero Distortion" is the standout track and sounds like a single. Several tracks have an airier, more spacious chamber pop sound. Others stick to acoustic roots pop. All of which is a roundabout way to say that the album exposes multiple influences. d'Almeida's signature vocals are casual and nasally congested, not unlike Jonathan Richman. Take the title with a dose of salt, for Ruining Perfectly Good Songs is anything but a ruin. It is polished yet whimsical, moody yet ultimately upbeat. — Jim Esch
AMG Rating ****

 

 

This sweet release from Cambridge-based Jaime D'Almeida (formerly of Five Dollar Milkshake) gets more enjoyable with each listen, as the compelling details and nuances work their way to the front amongst the soothing songwriting. A lil' bit country twang, a lil' bit latin twist and a lot of lovely lyrics swirl together to make some dang good poppy rock & roll that's bound to please folks who like both Beck's dancey stuff and his mopey country break-up albums. Jaime D'Almeida's voice is mega dreamy. Recorded at the infamous Zippah studios, this album features a whole host of esteemed local musicians including Paula Kelley and Pete Weiss (who also did the recording and engineering). Among my favorites is "Write This Song" which opens up at the chorus with a lovely sweeping organ, part mod, part psychedelic; "F'NF" has a lovely calypso hook, reminds me of happier Arto Lindsay; and the honky-tonk number "Baby, Take Your Cranky Pants Off" is unpredictably addictive. Inexplicably, or maybe ironically, the CD features radio promo spots, you know, like "Hi, you're listening to quality rock with real variety." If only commercial radio played stuff like this. - Sady Sullivan

 

 

This is a brilliant concept album.

Purportedly issued as a 51-minute, 17-song tongue-in-cheek statement on how to slog decent tunes, there's one huge problem. The songs weren't ruined at all; in fact, they are darn good, filled with good hooks and excellent vocals. There are deft touches of country, electronica, hip-hop, and pop music contained in these cuts and the overall production is brilliant.

Jaime D'Almeida, who authored the works, handles vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion. He is assisted by David Zimmerman (drums); Jason Dewaard (bass); Steve Chaggaris (drums); John Haydon (bass); Holt Hopkins (guitars, mandolin, dobro); Tim Obetz (pedal steel); Ken Clark (organ); Diane D'Almeida (violin); Lisa Murray (vocals); Paula Kelley (vocals, tambourine); Lance Davis (vocals); and Pete Weiss (vocals, guitars, banjo, keyboards, percussion).

While not overtly classifiable in any genre, The Timbre Project has dashes of Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Beck and Pete Yorn. Mostly, though, there is an undeniably flavor of whimsical performing.

"Message Received, Zero Distortion" and the old-school rocker "Cranky Pants" are the two standouts. Both songs boast great hooks and cool lyrics. "Write This Song" is forthright and gritty while "My Wasted" is poppy and deliberate.

A few songs suffer from heavy-handed involvement. "DC & CU" is contrived and a tad pompous while "Did You Run" detours into melodrama.

The disc contains three "radio promo spots." Seemingly pointless, they have a function. As D'Dalmeida explains in the liner notes, "The radio promo spots on this album are provided as a public service to DJs across the nation. If you or a close associate would like a personalized radio promo, please feel free to send a SASE to: Ice Cream Headache Records, P.O. Box 426006, Cambridge, MA 02142."

"Ruining Perfectly Good Songs" has a wry sense of irony and some excellent tunes. That's a terrific combination.

This disc is an unexpected gem.

GRADE: 9 out of 10
Michael J. Ryan

 

 

The Noise

Of the 14 tunes contained herein, I hear a peculiar(but by no means displeasing) amalgam of Nick Drake, Warren Zevon, the Zombies, and other avatars of singer-songwriter renown, with plenty of zany psyche effects thrown in (presumably via Pete Weiss at Zippah). "Getting to Nicholas" is brilliantly textured and paced and highly melodic; "Jack" displays the intensity of a classic tune like "Arnold Layne"; "Dead Aim" is a touching stop-and-start story-song--like Tom Petty sans bullshit. "F'N F" could have been an out-take from XTC's 'Skylarking'--or, for that matter, 'Something Else by the Kinks'. The wrenching "DC & CU" creeps in its petty pace and seemingly lights the way to dusty death. "My Wasted (Time)" is irresistibly catchy. Occasionally this mondo pop approach is less than successful: the magisterial "Message Received" too blatantly cops the best part of "A Day in the Life" for its middle eight; the lyrically excellent "Cranky Pants" seems a rote Chuck Berry homage. In one of his three promo spots Jaime D'Almeida implies his compositional style borrows liberally from past masters. Seems accurate. But the title is a misnomer. "Quality rock with real variety" is a more accurate self-assessment.
(Francis DiMenno)

 

 

Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter

The disc's title seems to be "asking for it" from music critics - never give a lazy critic an easy slam! - but this disc, with its "intelligent pop" sensibilities, renders such easy criticism irrelevant. The musical style on this second release from the Timbre Project - the name for Jaime d'Almeida's solo projects - ranges from the fun, radio friendly ("Everything's Graded") to moody ("Write This Song"). Other favorites include "Message Received, Zero Distortion," and "A Case Against Cloning." - Jesse Dean

Jaime D'Almeida is the driving force behind The Timbre Project, and one is left desperately wishing his songs were even half as funny as the CD package notes. Said notes contain a section of "nuggets to listen for," which lists submarine and cricket effects. There's also a note that warns against looking for a booklet, because there isn't one. D'Almeida sings and plays folk-rock music, which is nicely colored by country elements -- such as dobro and pedal steel. - Dan MacIntosh

 

 

If you wanted to create an odd hybrid of musical approaches by combining the lyrical styling of Pete Yorn, the alt-rock sensibility of Elvis Costello and the heart of Waylyne Jennings, you could have produced The Timbre Project. Another band with a local flavor, the Timbre Project blends these varying styles together for what could be deemed a "musical stew." It is, in essence a cornucopia of alternative rock, soft rock, pop, and folk with a dash of country. It is virtually impossible to encapsulate this disc into one easily identifiable package. There are moments when you think you are listening to a Elvis Costello song without the extra enunciation in the vocals and then the next track borders on something Yanni might belt out. This isn't necessarily a unpleasant experience but if you yearn for more of the heavier side of music, this CD may not be for you. As a whole, the disc contains an almost depressive undercurrent highlighted by treble saturated acoustic guitars backed by mellow, inherently soft drumming. On top of that are vocals that are auditorially pleasing but seem to be tidering on the edge of breaking out into something a little more dynamic but fail to stray away from that restraint. The end result is a disc that has the tendency to drone on without a spark to maintain your interests. This eclectic fusion of music is a visit into the mundane world of an artist who has the ability to move you emotionally but leaves a bland taste in your mouth. - Brodie Holmen

 

If one-man band Jaime d'Almeida did truly ruin perfectly good songs, it's hard to tell; his latest release, the second under hismoniker The Timbre Project, is full of sunny, 1996-radio friendly pop rock tracks and quirky instrumental experimentation. True enough to the title, though, d'Almeida seems to be trying not to write the "perfect" pop song.

For example, "A Case Against Cloning" is almost as radio-friendly as a song could be, with plenty of nah-nah-nah-nah's, but, alas, d'Almeida's lyrics tying a protest against cloning to a love ode for his girlfriend seem to say, "oh-wait-don't take me seriously enough to make me a pop star."

Tracks like "Cranky Pants" (about wanting to improve his better half), "Dead Aim" (about the girl everyone from high school everyone thought would do great things), and "Write This Song" (about trying to find the right thing to say to his lady), as well as the radio spots included on the album and title are all as equally tongue-in-cheek.

However, The Timbre Project is not by any means d'Almeida's comedy project, even if a sublime sense of humor is inherent throughout the album. There are several serious moments, such as "Tales from the Sketch Lot," about the faults of using violence as means for revenge, a commentary on marriage ("Message Received, Zero Distortion"), and the opening track, "Everything's Graded," an irresistible, acoustic-driven rolling tune that sarcastically warns "Don't worry/we won't make a judgement today/the day you're graded/it'll be on everything."

There aren't many instrumental breaks or solos on this record; instead, the emphasis is on chiming guitar lines accompanied bby synthesizers, violins, pedal steel, mandolins, dobros, and d'Almeida's plaintive vocals.

Ruining Perfectly Good Songs likely won't wield a hit single (which doesn't really mean much), but it's a well-crafted pop album that proves that d'Almeida is an accomplished, innovative musician. It reminds me of mid-'90s pop acts like Fastball, Semisonic, and New Radicals (another one-man act), only more experimental and not as polished, and quite honestly, more fun. - Tim Sullivan

 

 

This is a solid record, a medium-rock exposition of life experiences and philosophies. It's got the flavor of a work of spoken word, in the way the poetic lyrics represent themselves -- but the music is a great vehicle for the words. Music ranges from piano ballads to radio-ready pop tunes. (DP)

 

 

Okay, I could fully accept one (1) record as smart and funny as The Timbre Project’s last surprise – but to come right back with something as smart, as funny, and probably - on the whole - even better? Christamighty! In the immortal words of Abe Lincoln (supplanting any semblance of reality and transposing Timbre Project head honcho Jaime d’Almeida for General U.S. Grant – two steely sunuvabitches in their own right), "Find out what the man drinks and send him a case." - Kurt Hernon

 

 

Don't believe the title. These are still perfectly good songs played well and with heart by leader Jaime d'Almeida and friends. The basic rock mix is spruced up nicely with mandolins, pedal steel guitar, organs and strings. Especially good is sunny pop opener ``Everything's Graded,'' countrified banjo ditty ``Dead Aim'' and the contemplative piano ballad ``A Case Against Cloning.'' Add in eye-catchingly amusing packaging and this is a perfectly good CD indeed. Out now. - Sarah Rodman

 

 

There's nothing half-assed, detached, or cool about Ruining Perfectly Good Songs. The Timbre Project, which consists of songwriter/singer Jaime D'Almeida and guest musicians, offers a collection of rock songs that utilize all manner of sounds, from rippin' country electric guitar to gurgling electronics and earthy organs. Add to that D'Almeida's deceptively clever lyrics, in which mundane subjects often yield profound thoughts, and by golly, Ruining Perfectly Good Songs turns out to be an unexpected treasure.

The album gets off to a quick start with the country-based stoner number "Everything's Graded", which offers an upbeat look at the subject of Judgement Day. A folksy acoustic guitar sets the anchor as D'Almeida's effects-laden guitar stretches languourously, guiding the listener into a lofty chorus. Perhaps the secret to "Everything's Graded", and to every other song on the album, lies in D'Almeida and Peter Weiss' impeccable production work. Repeated listens yield a number of hidden studio effects, like the seamless integration of numerous high-pitched, warbling guitars in the chorus, and the slight distortion of D'Almedia's voice toward the end of the refrain. The small differences go a long way.

On "A Case Against Cloning", D'Almeida calls upon a full string section. As the music alternates between solo piano lines and the strings, he professes his love for his "true companion in the world". The clich├ęd chorus lyrics "There's only one of her, and I wouldn't have it any other way," are hilarious in light of the song's title.

Yet for all the humor, Ruining Perfectly Good Songs is truly distinguished by its ballads. "Getting to Nicolas" finds D'Almeida threading soft pedal steel into his clean mix of guitars and vocals. "Did You Run" features a heavenly mix of slowly warbling organs and washed out, rippling, psych guitars.

The disc's standout track is the schizophrenic "My Wasted", which begins with a childishly simple two-note riff before slowly building into a rockin' chorus. "Don't think that my wasted time is all I'm trying to forget," D'Almeida sings, over a barrage of overdriven guitars and flailing, spurting electronic sounds. And when the band stops for one second, a joyful electronic "chink" is heard, heralding the tune's final run.

"Message Recieved, Zero Distotion," the disc's potential radio single, is actually the album's weakest track. The song's bombastic chorus sticks in your mind, but more in an "Mmmm Bop"-annoying fashion.

The Timbre Project combines skillful songwriting with eclectic instrumentation and elaborate studio work. Give D'Almeida nothing but an acoustic guitar and a mic, and his songs would probably still hold up -- though he's clearly in his element working with a full band, strings, organs, electronics, pedal steel, mandolins and dobros. The Timbre Project's sound is intricate, yet completely accessible, touching and heartfelt. While the group's diversity prevents it from fitting neatly into any crowd's tastes (D'Almeida can probably forget the cooler-than-thou indie kids), those with open hearts will find much to explore in its timeless pop. -- Stephen Palkot

 

 

Looks like we’ve got a songwriter here as opposed to a band. Fellow name of Jamie writes and sings ‘em and plays some guitars, keys, bass, and percussion as well. Then he’s got a little help from his friends on drums, bass, mandolin, dobro, organ, violin, percussion, banjo, keys, and vocals. Some songwriters lean towards the song and their eclecticism tends to lend a disjointed quality. (Quality?) But not so here. All the songs are of a piece and a style and fit nicely onto the CD together, though I could do without the campy JD Krappe between songs here and there. So it’s kinda pop and sorta lite rock yadda yadda; a few easy bits and a few heavier ones. Even got sort of a rock-a-billy one name of “Cranky Pants.” Couple titles for you: “Jack,” “Everything’s Graded,” “Did You Run,” “My Wasted” and “Dead Aim.” Comment: it would have been nice if they had spelled Jaime's name correctly