by John M. Borack
Rejoice, pop fans: the first truly great record of 2010 has arrived, in the form of Seth Swirsky's gorgeous "Watercolor Day." The 19-track collection of sweet, summery sounds is equal parts Beach Boys (circa '66/'67), Emitt Rhodes, Harry Nilsson and every great sunshine pop act from the late '60s. Working in collaboration with the equally talented Rick Gallego (leader of the like-minded west coast pop act Cloud Eleven and co-producer here), Swirsky has fashioned a marvelous mixture of beautifully understated lead and background vocals, perfectly placed horns and strings, and a host of intoxicating melodies that swing and sway. Assisted by such California pop luminaries as percussionist Nelson Bragg and multi-instrumentalist Probyn Gregory (both from Brian Wilson's band), Swirsky doles out track after track of gentle goodness: the childlike "Sand Dollar," the beautifully Beach Boys-like "She's Doing Fine" (which recalls "Caroline, No" and is fortified by some faraway-sounding trumpet swirls from Gregory) and the stunning title track, which brings together diverse sonic elements such as pedal steel guitar, sax and strings into a three-minute suite of sorts, are but a few of the treasures here. The Emitt Rhodes influence is felt on tracks such as "Matchbook Cover" and, ironically, the Harry Nilsson tribute, "(I Never Knew You) Harry," with the jaunty chorus sounding as if it leapt straight off of Rhodes' 1970 self-titled album. And tellingly, even the songs that are seemingly trifles - the brief, Pet Sounds-like instrumental "4 O'Clock Sun" and the jokey "Big Mistake" - still have a craftsman's touch to them. With nary a dud in the bunch, "Watercolor Day" is sure to land on many a critic's year-end best of 2010 list. More information can be found at www.seth.com.