by John M. Borack
LA-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Brandon Schott's brand new one, Crayons & Angels, is something of a soft-pop tour de force, brimming with shimmering melodies, winsome innocence, and some beautiful vocal arrangements. It's reminiscent of early Harry Nilsson at times, and also recalls 1966/'67 Brian Wilson, particularly on some of the brief-yet-gorgeous instrumentals that are scattered throughout the generous 18-song effort.
The fragile, atmospheric 90-second instrumental "Dandelion" kicks things off, followed by the very Nilsson-like "Henry" (an ode to a friend's young son) and the simultaneously ornate and forceful "Verdugo Park." "Every Little Song" is a sweet collaboration with pop chanteuse Kelly Jones, while former Haircut 100 headmaster Nick Heyward makes an appearance on "Better Version of Me," which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Pet Sounds. Schott also offers up a sublime reading of Elvis Costello's "Riot Act," and turns up the guitars a bit for some pure pop lushness on "Dear Daisy" and "Seeing You in Stereo." Schott proves himself to be quite a creative force throughout, imbuing each tune with a variety of instruments (many of them keyboard-based) that often take his tunes on some out-of-left-field turns without ever sounding forced, fussy or pretentious.
By the time you hit the final three tracks - the soothing "Dandelion Rain," the John Lennon-ish ballad "Verdugo Park (Part II)" and the striking, hymn-like "Sweet Adelyne" - you'll no doubt be convinced that Crayons & Angelsis a strong contender for album of the year honors. More info is available at www.brandonschott.comGrade: A