Although Jim Boggia doesn't re-invent the wheel on Misadventures in Stereo, he and his session musicians succeed in crafting simplistic, well-written pop songs.
Jim Boggia loves classic pop music. You know, stuff like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Kinks; the kind of songs that were easily accessible but had plenty of substance underneath all that fluff. And on Misadventures in Stereo, Boggia has stepped back from the experimentalism of his last effort, Safe in Sound, to wear his love for the genre on his sleeve. His stripped-down, bare-bones tracks speak volumes. Besides being catchy, they are telling of an artist both mature and confident enough to record an album that doesn't stretch its arms to the stars.
When it comes to Boggia's vocals, it's likely that he will continue to draw comparisons to the Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney. But to be more accurate, Boggia is like a cross between McCartney and Spoon frontman Britt Daniel. Sure, Boggia can reach for and hit the high notes, but on Misadventures in Stereo, his voice is more gruff, more honest. The ruggedness in his throat is thrown out the window, however, when he sings on tracks like "So", a gentle, heartbreaking ballad, and the somewhat corny, but still enjoyable "Nothing's Changed". It also carries through to "8track", the one bright, pop-to-the-core moment. And Boggia doesn't hold back as he belts out lyrics about his passion for music over a fun-loving beat. Although it's much mellower, "Listening to NRBQ" is another straightforward, borderline cheesy number. It also speaks to two of his loves: an ex-companion and music.
"Johnnie's Going Down" is far and away one of this album's best tracks. It's got the whole indie-pop thing down, while also being unbelievably catchy. And the slight breakdown with the horns, which continue throughout the rest of the track, is perfect. "To and Fro" is slightly dirtier, throwing in some sarcasm. Boggia basically taunts a girlfriend to leave, because he knows she won't: "You say you're leaving but you'll never go / Why are you keeping up this to and fro? / If this don't feel right the door's open wide / But you know tonight you'll be by my side". For good measure, he tells her to "swallow [her] pride and "be [his] bride".
To balance the bright, sunny pop, Boggia uses obvious, but effective dark themes like alcoholism ("No Way Out") and death ("Three Weeks Shy"). The latter of the two is also his chance to voice his opposition to the Iraq War. It tells the story of a soldier who dies three weeks before finishing his tour of duty. But it doesn't end there. The last minute or so has a woman reading off names of deceased soldiers for an extra twist of the knife. On any other album, "Three Weeks Shy" might seem like a grasp at attention. But Boggia's sincerity throughout every other track says otherwise. And the darker songs here are the ones that resonate and stick with you. While the poppy numbers are fun, they get lost in the realm of similar singer-songwriters.
The music on Misadventures In Stereo won't blow you away. There is no showboating or complexities. Boggia's not trying to flex his picking skills or melt any faces. It's just him and his session musicians crafting simple, well-written pop songs. And the lo-fi ambiance echoing throughout the album adds more character to an already dense project. To get that effect, Boggia recorded the album onto an analog recorder, just like his musical heroes. And, fortunately for him, it works. Although some listeners will toss it aside as just another indie-pop record, those who give it a go will understand that this guy can write a hell of a song, both with his pen and with his guitar. One warranted criticism is that he's doing a lot of stuff we have all heard before, just with a slight variation. But that can also be to his advantage. Fans of like-minded musicians will no doubt love Boggia. Those listeners looking for something more, however, might have to keep searching.