Throwback Suburbia, Nelson Bragg offer brand new pop

By John M. Borack

OHMYGODTHISSONGISGREAT.

That’s what Nelson Bragg calls his publishing company, and it’s also the phrase this writer uttered 11 times over after being overwhelmed by Bragg’s sophomore effort, the near-perfect “We Get What We Want.” What we get is 11 little slices of pure pop heaven, each featuring Bragg’s understated melodic gifts and multi-instrumental talents. The overall vibe is of a ’60s-era sunshine-pop record, lovingly updated and wrapped in a beautifully sung and artfully played and produced package.

Bragg colors ”We Get What We Want” with many different shades from his musical paintbox: there’s some cool straight-up power pop with “You Could Believe,” recorded with instrumental assistance from Michael Simmons from California-based popsters sparkle*jets UK; there are lilting, jangly confections such as “I’m in No Mood” and “Welcome to Nowheresville,” whose 12-string guitars and warm, inviting melodies are sure to get popheads’ loins a-tingling; there’s a brief country-inflected diversion with “She Used to Love Me,” which also features a great little psychedelic twist at the song’s outset; and there’s a dreamy duet with the most talented Anny Celsi on the languid, stunning “Time and Tyde Agree,” which is the aural equivalent of a gentle ocean breeze.

Bragg also reverently covers his current boss Brian Wilson on a winning take of “Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long,” bathes a tune titled “Steel Derrick 1979″ in nostalgic beauty via more lovely vocals and a set of lyrics that recall his Massachusetts childhood, and peppers the rather bitter “What She’s Done to Him” with an insistent, galloping drumbeat and plenty of horns, courtesy of the talented Probyn Gregory.  The disc closes with an acoustic guitar-based chill of a tune, the brief, self-confessional “Everything I Want to Be.”  It’s a perfect wrap up to a marvelous album that is certain to rank high on many year-end best of 2012 lists.

Power pop fans seem to constantly be on a hunt for the “next big thing,” so it’s surprising that more of a fuss has yet to be made about Throwback Suburbia’s latest, the altogether glorious ”Shot Glass Souvenir” The terms “classic” and “pop perfection” often get bandied about by us journalists, but I’m here to tell ya that nowhere are these terms more applicable than here — ”Shot Glass Souvenir” is a pure pop album for the ages, folks.

Simply put, everything about this record is beyond top-notch. Jimi Evans’ sweet-yet-powerful lead vocals, the intoxicating melodies on all 11 cuts, the soaring vocal harmonies, the wonderful songwriting (courtesy of Evans, drummer Mike Collins and guitarist Paul Bond) and the crisp, clear sonic palette all add up to wow. ”Shot Glass Souvenir” is exactly the type of record that made your humble scribe fall madly in love with pop music in the first place.

Singling out songs is somewhat meaningless here – hell, they’re ALL great – but let’s talk about a few just for giggles. “It’s You” is an amazingly endearing little number, with some cool guitar/keyboard interplay and a verse that builds and builds and then softly explodes into a memorable chorus; “Here Again” is a lovely slower one, with Evans’ voice taking on a pinch of added grit; “Down to Love” is Grade A power pop, with some nice lead guitar work and another melody that’ll quickly lodge itself firmly in the ‘ol cranium; and “Side Effects” is a harmony-filled ’50s doo-wop pastiche (with some vocal nods to the Beach Boys) that proves that the band can succeed in a variety of musical arenas.

Another thing that makes “Shot Glass Souvenir” so flat-out wonderful is the fact that the ballads are on par quality-wise with the more upbeat numbers; so for every power pop classic in waiting such as “Caroline” (try getting those “woo hoo hoos” outta your head once you’ve heard this one, why don’tcha?) there’s a gently swaying gem such as “Best of Intentions.”

So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a copy of ”Shot Glass Souvenir” and say hello to your new favorite record.

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