Stephen Clair The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
(Rock City Records)
On his latest album, Beacon singer-songwriter Stephen Clair grabs an acoustic guitar, rolls in a not-entirely-tuned upright piano, and invites you to pull up a stool and have a listen to 11 of his latest songs. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a stark and intimate affair, with nothing to sugarcoat the unadorned performances (each track on the record is a single, unedited take) or Clair's unflinching lyrics, which dissect, skewer, and sometimes even celebrate the fantasies that we wrap our existences in.
Songs about social media are usually an automatic strikeout, but Clair hits one out of the park with "I Think You're Lonely," an achingly lovely meditation on the connection—and, ultimately, the lack thereof—between two people on Instagram. "I Died on the Crosstown Bus This Morning" tells the story of a guy whose brief glimpse of a gorgeous woman keeps him obsessively riding the same line in hope that he'll see her again, while "Watering the Flowers," "Tic Tac Toe," and the mournful "The World Has Changed" explore the end of romance using imagery that ranges from the mundane to apocalyptic. But traces of pure joy run through the album as well. "You Do Nothing But Good in This World" is a song of awed appreciation for a friend or lover who somehow brings a charge of positivity to every interaction, and on "Pizza And Fairytales" Clair sings, "It's pizza and fairytales tonight/And I can't wait." Me either, man.