Brady Harris has a knack for crafting nice, Beatles-like pop songs, but it's possible to get too much of a good thing.
Brady Harris is blessed with a voice and a style that could be a strange albatross. After all, who wouldn't want to sound like a John Lennon doppelganger? Harris' vocal resemblance to the Beatle is uncanny and it's a credit to his creative integrity that he doesn't just play in Beatles cover bands where he'd probably make a lot of money. The native Texan transplanted to Los Angeles has carved out a solo career crafting film scores and six solid solo albums, including Year of the Pug.
Harris is an adept arranger, crafting songs that feature tasty and tasteful melodic riffs in a style that is, well, very Beatles-like. Unlike bands such as XTC and Nada Surf that wear Fab influences on their collective sleeves and then transport the music someplace else, Harris keeps things simple, which is both a plus and a minus. Tunes like "Floating" and "Stars Shine Bright" are finely polished pop tunes, sweet and classy. The latter bears a bit of a resemblance to the Beatles' "Blackbird", albeit with a pedal steel backdrop, while "Floating" kicks the disc off with a nice mid-tempo groove.
Where Year of the Pug reveals its weaknesses is in the sameness of the songs. It's like Harris found his sweet spot -- a ballad-y, quiet groove -- and stayed there. By the disc's midpoint, the tracks all seem to blend together. It's all very comfortable and certainly tuneful, but it's bland. So while a song like "Slipping By" might sound cool lifted out of context on a compilation, here it sounds predictable and so Lennon-like that it just feels obvious. We already know Harris can do that, so how about mixing things up a bit with a balls-out rocker? That's the difference between this being the nice, safe, release it is, rather than something that transcends its genre.