Label: White Whale Records Release date: Out Now Website: A trip to Africa and Cuba for general good Samaritan Michael O'Connell has turned his Culture Reject project's self-titled album into a record that is fresher and more interesting than it probably would have been. He might be making songs that will inevitably soundtrack the next series of any American drama, but who hasn't. Death Cab were even on The O.C. (weren't they?) so who is to say this is a bad thing. The truth is, this is a pretty fine collection of songs- at first. The Cuban-influenced horns thicken the sound along with the off-beat piano lines throughout. 'Inside The Cinema' sets the stall out as layers of guitars grow and horns softly stab in, his emotive vocals drift over the top with ease, sagely finishing with the line “Do not pretend to love, you will get depressed.” 'Museums' continues in the same vein, shuffling along with the piano parts taking the lead. The melody of 'Oh Remain' flits around the shakers, acoustics and ba-da's uncomfortably at first, but it will win you over with its persistence. As the record goes on, it stumbles downhill. It's almost as though the horn-focused instrumental of 'Hong Kong Beach Part 1,' just before Oh Remain changes the direction of Culture Reject. Things get more uncomfortable, or maybe just less standard. 'Fireflies Are Fading' is too sparse until the horn solo comes in and then the chord progressions are brilliant, turning it into something of an 'if only'. 'Hong Kong Part 2' is more Flight Of The Conchords without the funnies. Culture Reject becomes somewhat frustrating because the promise of the early parts of the album just fades and disappears, only returning in brief moments of brilliance. The syncopated rhythms, the horns and the soft vocals are all undercut by the pitfalls of a few steps too far with the experimenting. If only. Rating: 6/10