Kevin and Anita Robinson, the Portland-based artists formerly known as Viva Voce, do vocal harmony like nobody's business. Now fronting Blue Giant, assisted by some guys from The Decembrists, Swords and The Golden Bears, the Robinsons are acting all grown up: tight, professional and too safe. With all that talent in one box, Blue Giant's eponymous debut could have been amazing, but it falls shy of greatness.
"Clean the Clock" opens the effort with a rush of sunny psychedelic splendor. Anita's slight, sweet voice carries the country ballad "Lonely Girl" like a breeze blows cottonwood fluff, while on "Reasons to Cry" her light touch lends the atmospheric tune a spooky sense of detachment. They're good songs, and it comes as no surprise that every track is executed beautifully.
But the album suffers from over-restraint or, perhaps, even laziness. In other words, these good songs could have been great songs. Maybe my expectations are unreasonable, but when Kevin Robinson hooks up with Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, I expect fireworks. Instead, "Gone for Good" is the kind of duet that any two friends might sing together, just for themselves, not trying to impress anybody. I bet they had a swell time.
Blue Giant plays the Badlander Monday, Sept. 13, at 9 PM, with Bobby Bare Jr. $5.