I've always been a sucker for Chris Carrabba. Rarely does he have much more to say than "my love life sucks", but there's just something about his authenticity that separates him from the rest of the pack of emo singer/songwriters.
On his first LP, The Swiss Army Romance, you should know what you're getting into as soon as the first song, "Screaming Infidelities", kicks into gear. As soon as Carrabba's shaky whispers begin, it's easy to get roped into his emotions. This is Chris's biggest strength; he knows how to grasp his audience, and usually doesn't let the songs drag on long enough for the grip to diminish. The album is littered with bright open-tuned acoustic guitars, some interesting acoustic rhythms, and very minimalistic compositions. There isn't a lot of layering to the songs, and this rawness works to the album's advantage.
An early highlight, "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" showcases everything done correctly: a catchy start-stop rhythm of the verses and a driving chorus make it one of the best somber cuts. "Plain Morning" saves the middle of the album from dragging on with it's gentle melody and subtle use of female vocals. On the other end of the spectrum, "Again I Go Unnoticed" is the most upbeat track on the album, and the acoustic rhythm is absolutely infectious. The 'epic' of the album, "Ender Will Save Us All" features Carrabba's best vocal performance on the album, despite it's annoying use of the repeated verse (think Mr. Brightside).
However, the album does tend to end up sounding the same. Most of the songs are in the same key, and all use similar chords. "Living in Your Letters" is the perfect example of everything being completely average. So while none of the album is bad, there are too many moments of filler for it to be a truly great album.
Dashboard Confessional has had it's ups and downs and several forays into electrics (to varying degrees of success), but at it's core it's just a guy. A guy with a lot of love stories to tell. And given the right mood, it can be just what's needed to mend a broken heart.