Kris Racer - ...Has a Banner Year (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Kris Racer

...Has a Banner Year (2007)

Two Thumbs Down

Assuming that the drinks are good, it's almost mathematically certain that a coffee shop improves the enjoyment a listener gets from a mellow acoustic singer/songwriter act. I'm not sure if it's the drinks, the acoustics of a small place, or just the ambiance of the building, but there is something about the coffee shop that really brings out the best in acoustic music. Kris Racer would probably be pretty fun to watch in a coffeehouse. Listening to him and his guitar in that atmosphere might provide a fair bit of entertainment, but unfortunately, it offers little of interest here on this compact disc.

There are a number of areas where this disc fails, and though none on their own would be too large a strike against Kris Racer (real name Kris Narunatvanich, yet another strike), taken together the negatives start to outweigh the positives. The songs don't really do much to differentiate themselves from each other. Narunatvanich's voice could definitely be a little stronger. A few surprises would help. But really, the main flaw here is that the disc is straddling the line between soothing folk in the vein of Iron & Wine and the shrill acoustic stylings of those Dashboard Confessional imitators we saw so many of a few years ago, and this genre-blending doesn't seem to work. It's too mellow to be pop, but too excitable to be good background music.

For all of its problems, though, the disc isn't quite as bad as it could have been. The songs, though a little dry, are still decent and they definitely have their moments, and Narunatvanich shows that he has a knack for penning clever lyrics, whether their meanings are upfront and obvious or hidden behind deeper metaphors: "Saturday searched for meaning behind tempered glass and broken windshields. And it's built up like a complex sentence, cast in type like auto wreckage." It's an easy-listening EP that always feels like it's building towards something better, yet that something never arrives.

Ultimately, …Has a Banner Year leaves a lot to be desired. If this is the kind of output we receive when Kris Racer is having a banner year, then maybe it'll take a mediocre year for him to produce something a little more inspired.