Baby Dayliner’s Critics Pass Away is like an itch you just can’t reach: It gets really annoying pretty quickly, but it just can’t be stopped. At a low dosage — two or three tracks every six hours — the album repeatedly works small wonders. Dayliner’s voice is, for one, almost without comparison. Is has a truly stand-out trifecta: the soulfulness of Marvin Gaye, the range of Robert Plant, and the deep richness like the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt. Likewise, the music that backs him up isn’t too bad either, featuring a sharp bass guitar/bass drum chorus, fuzzy guitars, and hints of strange percussion and winds used just right.
But the album’s flaws come out quickly and seem to overtake its strengths. It’s hard to describe exactly what happens, but what generally happens the songs slowly dissolve into sounding the same, and each one is the kind that couldn’t hurt to be a little briefer. The lyrics become more contrived and repetitive. The choice of electronic over acoustic instruments proves to be a bad one. At this point, it’s best to put Critics Pass Away away so it’s still exciting the next time you want to its hints of breakthrough excellence.