[9 January 2012]
Like any good studio-rat popsters, the Ditchflowers—led by multi-instrumentalist Ed Woltil—are forever chasing the metaphorical ghosts of Emitt Rhodes, Todd Rundgren and of course, the genre’s granddaddies, the Beatles. Sophomore disc Bird’s Eye, the first in four years, largely succeeds as a charming album chockablock with lush, grown-up guitar pop. Adept at both strolling piano-led tunes (“Simple Guy”, “In Memory of the Day”, “Love, the Conqueror”, which gets an assist from ex-Wilco stickman Ken Coomer) and punchier power pop (“If You Can Dream It”, “Pictures of You”), the band tackles topics like domestic bliss (“Home”), the inexorable march of time (the title track) and, uh, feeling (mock) sorry for all the poor bastards your wife turned down to pick you (“I Feel Sorry”). A dozen years ago, these guys would’ve been playing with Golden Smog, but as it is the Ditchflowers’ impeccably-produced tunes, by Woltil and bandmates Brian Merrill and Steve Connolly, are brimming with pedal steel, keyboards and ukulele, with Woltil and/or Connelly tossing off quick ‘n’ soulful solos that help scruff up the pristine songs. With the kitchen-sink approach and the long layover between albums seemingly informing a need to make up for lost time, Bird’s Eye‘s fourteen track, 54-minute run time is a bit much, but the joy the band had in making the album is undeniable and contagious.