I know what you're thinking: The world needs another sensitive singer-songwriter like it needs more layoffs and higher gas prices. But those with an affinity for the style will find some worthwhile material on Upstairs, Downstairs. The poppier numbers, such as "Twentysomething" and "Angels in the Attic," are accessible and well-structured, if more familiar than is strictly necessary. But Laurel's alternately wispy and husky voice makes a greater impression when it's operating in darker settings, as on "Earthquake" and "See-Through," which supplements its strumming with some effective strings, or approximations thereof. And while "No One Else" isn't exactly lyrically innovative (did you know pain cuts like a knife?), her emotional performance helps it make a mark. On this album, anyway, down is preferable to up.
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