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A rough charm

Subject to Change
Subject to Change
By Joe Palen

Self-released: 2008

This review first appeared in the January 8, 2009 issue of the North County Times.

Joe Palen's debut has a charming homemade roughness to it that hearkens back to 1980s college radio. The 40-something Oceanside resident accompanies his singing on guitar, and while he's got a nice, clean singing voice, the urgency of his autobiographical songs and the jangly guitar give this seven-song release a bit of an edge.

The melodies are pretty simple, but catchy; the arrangements and production seem a bit thin. Part of it is that Palen's simply not as good a guitarist as he is a singer, so his fills on guitar struggle to hold the listener's attention until he begins singing again.

But the evidence on this disc suggests someone who'd offer a fun live show, something his MySpace page and Web site suggest he does too infrequently.