Some albums impress from the first listen, some are growers, and some don’t do much of either. Such is the case with the debut from All Smiles, a project from ex-Grandaddy guitarist Jim Fairchild. After many listens I began to pick up the album’s patterns and highlights, but that doesn’t make it a grower — noticing these slight qualities didn’t make me like the album more. And it certainly didn’t make it the most appealing product to an oversaturated short-on-time indie-rock fan.
For being best known as a guitarist in an understatedly great band for a while, Fairchild pulls an interesting move by largely dropping the guitar through the middle of Ten Readings. Four tracks in a row are based on jaunty piano lines, and the keys come back to dominate closer “Of Course It’s Not Up to Me.” All of these tunes recall the White Stripes when Jack similarly drops his axe, especially the White Blood Cells closer “This Protector.” (Although Meg didn’t help Fairchild out on percussion, a slew of other prominent indie drummers did, including Janet Weiss and Joe Plummer.)
Because Fairchild’s voice often sounds like a bratty child’s, especially on “Pile of Burning Leaves,” it falls to his guitar to save the day. And he puts in some nice squiggly, almost bluesy lines on the likes of “Summer Stay,” “Killing Sheep,” and “Leave Love,” but those fleeting moments aren’t enough to make the album memorable.