Owen Ashworth has been producing his lo-fi tales of young adult observation and ennui for some time now under the name of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. The name that he produces music under has been fairly apt until now, as he has largely banged out his tracks on dated keyboards with a keen eye for capturing everyday life. Etiquette finds him working in largely the same territory lyrically, but with this release he's taken a medium to large sized step musically, utilizing a larger variety of instrumentation and a batch of friends on vocals.
The album gets started in earnest with "New Year's Kiss" and the melancholy track sounds like Arab Strap at their best as Ashworth adds his fumbling, regretting lyrics over a shambling drum machine beat, some ringing guitars, piano, and even some strings. "Young Shields" follows, and it's even better, pumping along with sort of a euro-electro feel as cold synths blend with a quirky beat and scorch with a blistering guitar texture overlay towards the end.
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone have never really been into epic numbers, and this release is no different as most tracks average only two and a half minutes in length. It actually works in the album's favor, though, as Ashworth gets to toy with lots of different ideas over the course of the short album, and fortunately most of them work. From the title, "I Love Creedence" sounds like it could be a tongue-in-cheek nod to the classic-rock band, but musically and lyrically Ashworth takes things in a completely different direction with sad musings on barely scraping by.
Although Ashworth's weary baritone never manages to get old over the course of the short release, the album does benefit from several vocal contributions, including the disco dance-pop of "Scattered Pearls" (which could fit alongside the Postal Service in terms of playful electronic pop) and the lo-fi "Holly Hobby," which reminds me of something that could have come from 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields. Having heard previous albums from CFTPA and not really have them sink in, I have to admit that Etiquette has changed my opinion of the group. This is nicely-conceived pop music that keeps things concise and interesting, and while it's not tackling any heavy subjects that are going to change the world, there are feelings and emotions on display here that just about everyone has gone through.