Jason Bajada Puer Dolor / Live at Cabaret Music Hall

If you come from a town with an art college and at least a couple of open-mic night venues you’ve probably seen someone like Jason Bajada perform. Sensitive and slightly rumpled; early to mid-20s; passionate about his record collection; playing sets that blend originals with obscure indie covers, British folk and the occasional ironic ABBA song. All of this may be true of Jason Bajada as well, but on his debut album he still manages to distinguish himself. For one thing his songs are full of shifty little reminders of classic indie pop rather than out-and-out crib notes. They also serve as a reminder that songs can be moody and emotional without having to shout or wield tear-soaked handkerchiefs. The maturity of songwriting and understated but effective arrangements, featuring spare percussion, effects and cello, has more in common with old-timers like Elvis Costello and Go-Betweens than any current alterna-angst. The simultaneously released Live at Cabaret Music Hall showcases Bajada as an easy, engaging performer. The songs are slightly breathier and extended musically to let his band roam a little, but they neither add to nor subtract anything tonally from the studio versions. (Independent)