Beth Thornley: Wash U Clean


RIYL: Aimee Mann, Anya Marina, Ben Folds

It takes real talent to create music that is hip, yet melodic; accessible, yet not forced; and catchy yet not catchy to the point that you don’t want to listen after five spins. Piano songstress Beth Thornley has done this on her third album, Wash U Clean, a bouncy collection of pop tunes that are as infectious as any piano-driven ditties you’ve ever heard. Thornley herself is apparently amazed at the variation between the artists she is compared to, but that’s because that variation is genuinely as wide as the Grand Canyon – even from track to track. That’s just one of the many reasons to like this terrific set of music, and it’s a bonus that you’ll feel as cool as some hipster blogger while listening to it. The title track features a horn riff that will remind you of the synthesizer in Gary Numan’s “Cars,” but the soaring chorus is like one of those long-lasting wads of bubble gum. From there, Thornley weaves in and out from Ben Folds-like anthem (“Still Can’t Hide” and “It’s Me”) to the Aimee Mann-ish “There’s No Way” to the best track of all, the stunning ballad “What the Heart Wants” – the musical version of a lazy Saturday afternoon. Beth Thornley has really delivered a beauty with Wash U Clean, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a bad song on it. (Stiff Hips 2010)

Beth Thornley MySpace Page

  

Danny Ross: One Way


RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Ben Folds

It’s one thing to say you sound different than everyone else. It’s another thing entirely to do it without trying. New York City-based singer/songwriter/pianist Danny Ross falls into the latter category, at least it seems that way on his latest, One Way. Sure, you can try to lump Ross in with the likes of Ben Folds or Sufjan Stevens, but he set out to add elements of the Who’s Tommy or Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, while also channeling his background studying jazz piano. The result is an exuberant batch of songs that may not grab you right away, but slowly do so after repeated listens, when you hear things you didn’t hear the first time around. Ross’ falsetto and unique melodies may also remind you of the late Jeff Buckley, but that’s just a point of reference because dude is clearly doing his own thing. If you like your music to have perfect structure and ear candy hooks, you won’t find much to like on here – but if you veer off the beaten path and like your music to do the same, you’re going to love Danny Ross’s music. The best tracks on this fine set are the literal opener, “Sleepy Dream;” “Stay Here with Me” and “And The Trumpets Sing” which both have melodic elements of ‘60s pop; and the driving, triumphant title track. Just do yourself a favor, and give this one a few spins with time to fully digest it. (Danny Ross 2009)

Danny Ross MySpace Page

  

Aaron Beaumont: Nothing’s Forever (Not Even Goodbye)

Maybe, as Aaron Beaumont suggests in the title of his recently reissued debut album, nothing is forever – no, not even goodbye – but some things do come awfully close, and on that list, tastefully ragtime-drenched piano playing and the smooth croon of a natural pop vocalist must rank awfully high. That’s good news for Beaumont, whose Nothing’s Forever (Not Even Goodbye) is filled with impeccably crafted, pleasantly retro songs that rescue piano pop from the arch snarkiness of late-period practitioners like Ben Folds – while avoiding the occasionally nauseating heights of seriousness attained by, say, Jack’s Mannequin. While Nothing’s Forever isn’t as consistent as it could be – obvious singles like the instantly charming “Julia” are offset by a handful of tracks that fade quickly into the background – it’s simply too smart and well-written to dislike, and since Beaumont had the extreme good sense to limit the track listing to 10 songs and just under 45 minutes, it’s too breezy to wear out its welcome. Matter of fact, this is that rarest of 21st-century beasts: an album that warms to the ear with repeated listens, rather than breeding contempt. In lesser hands, Beaumont’s extremely retro vibe would be nothing but a flimsy gimmick, but he’s clearly a songwriter who understands the difference between the strongly nostalgic and the simply timeless. Here’s hoping he gets the opportunity to grow into his aspirations. (Milan 2008)

Aaron Beaumont MySpace page

  

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