Sure, it’s tough to top the absurdist kink of a song like “Big Top Woman”, the lead-off title track to Boston singer-songwriter Frank Ciampi’s debut album, what with its White Album-era lounge-blooze shuffle, brusque horns, and delightfully vivid lyric (“Time has come for everyone to see her / She’ll juggle flame and watch those lions tease her”). But Ciampi’s smart songwriting and appetite for the paradigms of classic pop and rock are a constant, impulsive force throughout Big Top Woman‘s 11 tracks, which alternate between sinuous Pet Sounds elegance (“Madeline Maybe”), prog-leaning power-pop (“Little Girl”), and McCartney-esque medleys (“On the Road”). Ciampi isn’t just an imitator of aesthetic, however—from song to song, he bends each archetype to his post-modern, irreverent will, yielding spring-loaded pop that’s both fresh and familiar.
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