[Old Flame Records; 2012]

Skeptic Goodbye, the debut offering from Cambridge, Massachusetts duo You Won’t, suffers from the same trio of flaws that plague so many of today’s folk-pop newcomers: weak vocals, formulaic songwriting, and clunky lyrics. From the hipster contrived album cover depicting a bruised, frowning mime, to its bland melodies that never quite get off the ground, neophytes Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri do absolutely nothing to illuminate just how they got signed to Old Flame Records – who are home to experimental electro pop freaks Dinowalrus and have previously released material by Cloud Nothings.

Brazenly opting to begin their first full-length LP with distorted, crazed hollering and sound effects approximating a toy Hasbro laser gun, opening track “Three Car Garage” abruptly transitions into an up-tempo folk melody that would only have approached relevance circa in 2006 as a B-side off The Dodos’ Beware of the Maniacs. Set to a repetitive acoustic guitar and unapologetically redundant beat, it’s difficult to imagine how Arnoudse and Sastri settled on leading off their inaugural LP with this track. Once we have a listen to the remainder of the album’s filler, though, its entirely apparent.

The single redeeming element of “Fat and Happy” is that it clocks in under two and a half minutes, and “Who Knew” touts lyrics that would have even middle school lyricists blushing in embarrassment: “If I was a sad-eyed eighteen / I would cut all the holes in your jeans for you / If I was a middle aged man/ I would buy you a mini van or two.” To make matters worse, the falsetto on “Fryer” is fatally flat, and the vocals on title track “Skeptic Goodbye” come off as if the singer is constipated, despite that the song’s anemic piano clues us in that he was probably going for melancholy. Bottoming out with deconstructed “Ten Years Ago,” its unlikely that many listeners will make it to the back half of this LP

It’ll come as quite a shock to learn, then, that the album’s back end actually picks up a little momentum. “Dance Moves,” derivative guitar lines and all, provides a much-needed kick of verve and energy, which segues pleasantly into the gospel laden communal hand clapping of “Television.”

You Won’t clearly have a ways to go before they can credibly nudge themselves in the same sentences as Old Flame Records’ elite artists. Instead of mimicking those trailblazing folk-pop bands from half a decade ago, they’d be better off embracing their inner freakiness and maybe even hiring out some sitar and bougarbou players on their next effort. I’m skeptical, though.