Round and Shiny: "High" Alert
If you're one of those music fans who's decided to go back to bed until dubstep is over, I have good news and bad news. Bad news first: I don't know if dubstep is over yet, and I'm not sure how we'll know when it is.
Here's the good news, particularly if you have admirers of classic-pop virtues on your holiday gift list: Gavin Guss has a new album.
Guss has been doggedly creating beautiful, catchy pop-rock for years, both as a solo act (on such sterling prior releases as Mercury Mine) and with various bands (Tube Top among them). His latest set, On High, is arguably his best. It's full of gorgeous melodies, tasty instrumentation, swoony harmonies and all the other attributes you'd expect from a lifelong purveyor of tunes commonly (if lazily) deemed "Beatlesque."
But Guss isn't just a superb craftsman; his songs are lovely short stories, their emotional underpinnings written into every melodic gesture (as well as his finely wrought lyrics). The plaintive piano figure that introduces lead-off track "Avenue A" establishes that you're in the hands of a gifted songwriter — song after song confirms Guss' mastery.
Song after song confirms Guss' mastery.
Standouts include the exuberant, synth-spiked "Come Over"; the dreamy "Riga in the Fall"; the bouncy title track, with its handclaps and slightly arch guitar motif; the incandescent, wistful "Wonder Too"; the beguiling waltz "Invent You Myself"; and, well, the whole damn disc.
The tales in this collection frequently retrace the steps of a love gone wrong, and its elegant chord changes often tend toward the autumnal. There's plenty of rock energy as well, but what ties it all together is a warmth and intimacy befitting an album played almost single-handedly by Guss in his Seattle home — On High is a multi-tracked tête-à-tête with the listener.
These songs wing their way into your brain's pleasure center within a listen or two and find a permanent perch. A high one.