Friday, November 27, 2009

CD of the Day, 11/27/09: Plasticsoul-Peacock Swagger

We interrupt your Black Friday shopping to bring you an album you can't buy on Black Friday. That's because Plasticsoul's Peacock Swagger, the brilliant followup to 2005's Pictures from the Long Ago, won't be released until this coming Tuesday, December 1. But it's so good that I have to review it early, to give you that kind of pre-Christmas aniticpation you had as a kid.

Plasticsoul is Steven Wilson, a California artist who falls squarely into the Michael Penn/Jon Brion wing of power pop. His 2005 debut was such a treat that I went back and reviewed it even though I didn't start this blog until a year later. The followup was worth the wait. Whereas the debut didn't stray far from the Brion/Penn template, Wilson paints from a larger sonic palette here. The two-headed opener "You Sentimental Fucks/Life on Other Planets" answers the musical hypothetical "What would have Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey have sounded like if Lennon wrote it instead of McCartney?" (The fact that Wilson sounds quite a bit like Lennon helps answer that question as well.) Speaking of Lennon, "Cock Rock 101" is to, well, cock rock, as "Yer Blues" was to the blues, simultaneously sending it up and reveling in it.

We then come to as strong a trio of tracks as can be found a disc this year: "Champion Tragic Boy", which Michael Penn fans will love, featuring Brandon Schott on the chamberlin in the Patrick Warren role. Next up is "Fishwife" (which made its debut on the IPO 12 compilation), a jangly sitar-laden track that's instantly unforgettable, and rounding out the terrific trio, "Cancer", perhaps the definitive track on suffering with the Big C, complete with Revolver-styled backward guitars and sound effects in service of a great melody despite the subject matter.

Wilson lets us catch our collective breath with the gentle, acoustic-based "What Do You Know About Rock & Roll?" and the midtempo "Shame", which is borderline alt-country complete with pedal steel. This sets us up for the rocking "New Town, DIfferent Day", replete with "sha-la" backing vocals in the chorus, and the gorgeous "San Francisco", perhaps the best paean to the city since Tony Bennett's. Closing out the disc are the wonderfully psychedelic "My Three Friends" and "Rainy Season", a "Hey Jude"-styled number featuring a sing-along outro.

My only quibble: The disc doesn't include "Throwaway", the absolutely brilliant track that was on last year's IPO comp (#11). Not that Peacock Swagger suffers by its absence, but the now apparently ironically-titled track would have made a nice addition. And that quibble aside, I'll note that the race for the #1 disc of 2009 remains wide open in my book and things just got a bit more complicated.

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UDPATE (11/30): The official Plasticsoul site has the disc on sale a day early, with a special deal: the first 20 orders get a free copy of John Hoskinson's Pancho Fantastico, and you have the option of getting Pictures from the Long Ago for only $5 extra.

Listen to "Cancer" here, originally on another comp:

And a live video of "New Town, Different Day":

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