It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes Jim Noir's self-titled second album so catchy. It's not the jingly guitars or bouncy keys that make you want to keep spinning the disc, nor is it the album's pastiche of classic 60s surf rock mixed with spacey new wave. That's all fantastic, but the glue holding it all together is Noir's voice, eccentric and wide-eyed and ultimately standing alone as he spins a tale about a fictional astronaut or the questionable quality of cassette tapes.
Musically, Jim Noir has a lo-fi sound, like it was thrown together in a bedroom from John Cusack's High Fidelity vinyl library. Big bright 80s synths mingle with drum fills and guitar chords ripped straight from the Kinks. Noir has a penchant for tunes that walk the tightrope between vintage and much-too-modern, as on "Don't You Worry" and "Day By Day By Day," and manages to maintain that balance throughout the majority of the album. It only stumbles when the songs slow down, like the intro to "Good Old Vinyl" that loses the momentum previous tracks had built up. Even then, Noir's idiosyncratic vocals are the cushion that breaks the fall and brings the CD back to the space it belongs.
Noir's vocals are awkward but not unattainable, like a guy hanging out down at the pub who happens to have a gift for harmony and rocks the vocals on karaoke night. He's someone you know, not someone you'll never meet. On tracks like "Look Around You" he sings about all the things he's always wanted to experience — interesting drunks or reliable cabs — with a longing normally reserved for working stiffs. The dichotomy between these lonely, sad vocals and the sparkly sweet melodies is like tasty candy for the ears, and well worth repeat listens.