Monday, February 20, 2006

CD of the Day, 2/20/06: Justin Levinson-1175 Boylston

Wow. 2006 is shaping up to be quite a year for great new discoveries. We're barely halfway through February, and here comes another one: Justin Levinson. His debut, 1175 Boylston, sounds like the work of a seasoned pro.

Now while anyone these days with a piano-based sound and some pop smarts gets compared to Ben Folds, the comparison is truly earned here. This cd reminds me, more than any other I can recall, of the Ben Folds Five debut album ( one of my top 10 albums of the 90s), not only musically but in spirit as well. Opener "Sunny Day" is as catchy and bouncy as they come (complete with slide trombone courtesy of Levinson himself), and just when you've caught your breath, "Empty Line Cliche" follows with more of the same. The Folds sense of humor is there as well on the album closer "Nice to See You Guys", in which Levinson & Co. break out the banjos and kazoos (!). But he has more than simple pop ditties on his mind; both "Sky Is Falling" and "Fireflies" address the unpopular Iraq war in a thoughtful manner and without sacrificing the underlying melodies. The strong backing vocals on many of the tracks also remind me of the Five, with the main difference being that Levinson is unafraid to use guitars.

At this point you're saying "enough already - where can I listen to this?" Well, you're in luck. First of all, you can download - yes, download - 3 tracks including "Sunny Day" and "Sky Is Falling" at Justin's Pure Volume site. (Note: these tracks are downloadable by clicking on "download" within a Flash application, which means the normal right-click saving options aren't available. Set your browser's mp3 preferences to "save to disk" instead of opening in, for example, winamp). Over at his myspace page, the same three can be streamed along with a rough demo of a newly written non-album track. And as usual you can stream 2-minute samples of additional tracks and buy the album at CD Baby.

The way things are going - with accomplished debuts from the likes of Levinson, Supraluxe, Travis Hopper and who knows who else to come - the veteran power pop artists are going to have to really start stepping up to the plate to make my year-end of best-of list for 2006.

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