Self-promotion can be a pain in the ass: the constant hustling, the endless touring, and—oh God—the blogging, the vlogging, and the publicity stunts. Nobody knows the pains of promotion more than Pezzettino, a.k.a. former Milwaukeean/current Brooklynite Margaret Stutt. Ever since garnering attention last summer for offering personally dedicated YouTube songs in exchange for car-repair cash, Pezzettino has since been a tireless force of homegrown hype. Lub Dub, the accordion-wielding ingénue’s second proper album, finds the gimmicks and stunts left mostly behind in favor of a slick, cohesive, and funk-flavored sound. Though Stutt hasn’t completely abandoned her hi-tech busker theatrics—Lub Dub’s vinyl pressing was funded entirely by online donations—it’s refreshing to finally hear a Pezzettino album that succeeds or fails based on its musical merits alone.
Happily, Lub Dub succeeds, largely due to producer-collaborator Brandon Birchbauer, a.k.a. LMNtlyst. Proving a perfect foil to Stutt’s previously stripped-down, bare-bones arrangements, Birchbauer injects the album with glitchy beats, R&B-flavored swagger, and moody, low-key soundscapes. The opener, “Replay,” is instantly charming, brimming over with “shoo-wop, shoo-wop” backing vocals and tinkling glockenspiels (not to mention a cribbed guitar lick from Santo & Johnny’s iconic “Sleep Walk”). Mid-album standout “Where’d Ya Go?” features Pezzettino’s clipped, Regina Spektor-esque vocals at the service of an undeniably winning chorus, while “Cold Hard Chick” contains an accordionized snippet of the intro music to Pac-Man. Indeed, unpacking Stutt’s quirky references and Birchbauer’s producer Easter eggs is a chore in itself— albeit a rewarding one.
Only occasionally do the pair’s efforts at smoothing Pezzettino’s rough edges go too far. Though it features some lovely vocal and piano work from Stutt, “For You And Your Headaches” could pass for any of the cloying, anonymous indie-rock ballads that score the last few minutes of prime-time TV dramas. “I Did Not Use Those Words Yesterday” suffers from the same problem, but still serves nicely as an intimate, hushed album closer, punctuated throughout its five-minute runtime by long stretches of near-silence. Make no mistake, though: Lub Dub is a polished, lovingly produced, and largely successful effort. Thankfully, this time around, there are no gimmicks attached.
Pezzettino celebrates the release of Lub Dub Saturday at Turner Hall.