Drew Smith: Drew Smith's Lonely Choir

Drew Smith's Lonely Choir has restored my faith in Austin somehow. It's such a cool, in-the-moment pop record with some kind of intuitive Randy Newman smartness at play in every lyric and odd musical shift, with something slick and knowing and smooth going on at every turn. The only thing smarter than Smith's wistful lyrics are his sympathetic melodies, which cross a musical spectrum from Loudon Wainwright to Counting Crows — although there's a vulnerable toughness that indicates this guy might kick your ass if he thought you were comparing him to either. It's smart pop, no doubt, but with an immediately recognizable down-home vibe that strikes a free-spirit chord.

When Smith swings into "Silver Pictures," he bites off the words like Van Morrison singing "TB Sheets," and makes you believe there's still some modern place between pop and soul. He follows with Lonely Choir's catchiest song, "Follow Me Down," and it delivers that same inexplicable, pleasurable shiver we got when we first heard the Wallflowers' "One Headlight" on the radio. A single listen makes it obvious this is no average pop record, and lyrics like "I read the Bible and I stumbled on every word / Guess the time caught like a blood clot, the sermons blurred" confirm a smartness that great pop demands. Repeated listens only heighten the sense that this is a lasting pop record — even if only 200 people ever hear it.

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William Michael Smith