July 10, 2009

Letters & Numbers
Cat’s Game

San Francisco, CA
Engineered by Bruce Foster

Cat’s Game is the first release for indie-folk aficionado Letters & Numbers of TrackRecords. Nicholas Haughton’s semi-acoustic project features songs ranging fromthrowback Americana to exquisitely produced lo-fi pop. What’s more impressive is that he played almost every single instrument on the record. Musically, the songs are reminiscent of early Bright Eyes; vocally, Haughton draws comparisons to Weakerthans frontman John Samson; and lyrically, he channels the straightforward yet complex styling of The Mountain Goats. From start to finish, the album is full of intense metaphors, while remaining brutally honest. Honesty is something Haughton seems to pride himself on. He puts his heart on his sleeve, as evident by the track “Buying my Blues.” In this song, he admits he’s trying to sell his music, but essentially what he’s selling is his honesty, passion, trust, lies, failures and shortcomings. The song seamlessly transitions to the next track, “Paradiso Et Canto,” which also serves as the standout track on the record. It’s a classic story song about a love interest, but the music seems to vividly paint a picture of the scenes being described.

Most acoustic records have their down tracks. Although Cat’s Game has its moments of less than stellar execution of the musical style Letters & Numbers decided to churn out, the majority of the record flows in a streamlined manner for Haughton to channel his idols. “Unbelievable Sound” seems like something that could have come off one of the departed Elliot Smith’s earlier records. Of the rest of the album’s tracks, “In Reverie” seems to be the song where Haughton’s playful personality shines. The simple acoustic lines erupt into a powerful explosion of both musical and lyrical intensity.

The final track on the record is an epic, titled “Phantasmagoria.” The song’s progression shows the potential genius at work in Haughton’s mind. Letters & Numbers is a fresh light illuminating the singer-songwriter scene today. This artist’s enormous potential rests with his complex lyrical structures, mixed with his burgeoning musical ability. When the final track ends, you’re left wanting more, and isn’t that what you want from a first offering? (Track Records)
-Albert Opraseuth

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