‘Tuned In’ review: Sleepy Kitty hits snooze midway on new release

'Projection Room' by Sleepy Kitty

"Projection Room" by Sleepy Kitty

Sleepy Kitty is more of a hellcat than the docile feline its name implies, though the St. Louis duo suffers a declawed stretch on its new “Projection Room” that lets the air out of the middle of the release.

At their best, Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult show flashes of Blondie brilliance, balancing an art-punk aesthetic with emotional turns and eclectic flair. Brubeck pins plaintive melodic wails of “Don’t you start missing me now” in garage rock clamor to put a surreal twist on the track “Don’t You Start,” while she affects a bracing tone for the more comfortable jangle of “Nothing = You.”

Those early album cuts are complemented at the end of “Projection Room” with the disarmingly cute ditty “All I Do Is Dream of You” and the showy finale, “Hold Yr Ground,” which swells with inescapable power.

Meanwhile, Sleepy Kitty’s artfulness has a droll streak, manifested in the curiously compelling penultimate track “Bat-man: The Ride” as well as in “What Are You Gonna Do When You Find Bigfoot?” The latter starts as a bit of piano-theater, with Brubeck making wry observations like, “People told Columbus that he’d sail over the edge, and look what happened!” Sult’s arrangement cranks up as it goes, cushioned in echoes, then fittingly fades with what appears to be Brubeck howling in the woods.

Unfortunately there’s that troubling stuff in the middle of “Projection Room,” tracks where Brubeck and Sult appear to be playing and singing just to hear themselves play and sing. Whether ill-schemed or ill-executed, Sleepy Kitty doesn’t seem to have anything to convey with the inexplicably volatile epic “Godard Protagonist Inflection.” The duo is even less purposed on the aptly titled “The Hoax,” where Brubeck yawns, “I keep on telling myself that I shouldn’t care, but I do.”

That makes one of us.

Such pretentious narcissism about their craft indicates something’s amiss with the act’s instincts – though it could just be that Sleepy Kitty is more akin to Lazy Kitty.

At least they’re a couple of cool cats in the beginning and end of “Projection Room.”

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

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