Sometimes, great music comes flies by at a fast and furious pace, and its hard to keep up. A whole lot of releases worthy of good press have flown across my digital desk over the past several months. Let’s start the discussion by focusing on two that fall into the less aggressive part of the rockin’ pop spectrum.
Gordon Weiss, Its About Time: Weiss’ second long-player finds him frequently exploring the difference between perception and reality, and themes of personal, professional and artistic in-authenticity in our increasingly connected world. He does so to great effect.
In “Saccharin, Aspartame, Splenda, You & Me,” artificial posturing sours a relationship, causing Weiss to sing plaintively toward its close, “I want you to be true via being true/By being you…and me/And me and you.” In “The Great Imitator,” Weiss assays the artistically derivative in the service of entertainment, asking an eternal question in rather direct terms: “is decent derivative worse than original shit?”
Perhaps the best example of Weiss’ ruminations on the fake and and the false is “I’m Your Fan,” where the rather obsessive narrator claims early on that he is merely a “collector, not a stalker.” But he wonders later why he is unable to establish a connection with his idol even though he “friended you on Facebook” and had a backstage handshake after a concert once upon a time. Weiss’ urgent vocals threaten to take “Fan” into the realm of the creepy, but he pulls back just enough to stay on this side of disturbing even as he pleads by the end “please listen to my demo/I’m your fan”:
The largely acoustic orientation of Its About Time — acoustic guitar and piano sit at the center of most of the tracks — supplies a perfect backdrop for Weiss’ often caustic lyrics. All is not negative, however, as the album closes with the ultimately hopeful, “My Love Still Grows,” with its soaring background vocals and simple statement of purpose — “there isn’t any reason, good or bad, but my love still grows.” Its About Time is an album whose charms grow with each listen. Jeff Cannata’s sharp recording and mixing also make Time a delight to hear with a good pair of headphones. Get it via Bandcamp.
Caddy, The Better End: Tom Dahl does 95% of the playing and singing on this quite fine release, which finds him in a decidedly Teenage Fanclub state of mind. As such, Dahl serves up rather liberal doses of layered, often jangling and chiming guitars, entrancing mid-tempo rhythms, swirling harmonies, beguiling tempo shifts and sunny, relaxed vibes straight out of early-70s Southern California. He does, however, throw in a substantial number of unexpected twists and turns to keep The Better End from becoming a paint-by-numbers facsimile.
“Beautiful Strange” sways by breezily, and quite beautifully, with a deliberate beat and swaying, rhythmic undertone before launching into a distorted guitar conclusion. Just when you think “Something About Carina” is about to hit “Norman 3” head-on, Dahl makes a quick left turn, adds a sweet chorus and cool guitar solo and takes the song to a different part of town. The main riff in the lazy “Here It Comes Again” is straight out of a lullaby, and plays off nicely against the increasingly intense percussion. The more upbeat “Into The Sun” and “Wherever You Go” sound check classic Power Pop. The latter even features a sax solo that would have been at home on any number of lite rock releases in the 70’s. “Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer” transports the listener to a sunny, late afternoon at the French seaside town of its title.
Dahl has crafted the perfect accompaniment to a day at the beach, a drive up the coast with the sunroof open or the top down, or a day sitting around doing nothing other than drinking lemonade or cocktails. The Better End is simply a beautiful record from start to finish, and a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can download it here, get it on disk (with bonus tracks) from Kool Kat Musik, or on vinyl from Sugarbush Records. A sample can be heard below: