Broemel holds his own on his latest album.
It’s been six years since Carl Broemel graced us with his brand of understated but undeniably smart songs. Those eager to hear a continuation of the psych/folk/even prog leanings from 2010’s All Birds Say won’t be disappointed when the needle drops on 4th of July. Neither will fans of Broemel’s main squeeze, My Morning Jacket.
Opener “Sleepy Lagoon” features trippy vocals and rich, layered guitars that will have even the most jaundiced ears sitting up to take notice of the Indiana-born musician’s genius. The six-string figures are more intricate than you might catch at first, and maybe that’s the point. We aren’t supposed to pay close attention to individual instruments so much as to the composition as a whole. It’s hard to ignore the beautifully-rendered acoustic lines that populate the spacey, melancholic passages of the title tune or the way the tune lifts and glides like Pink Floyd and soars like the best late ‘70’s California pop.
That fixation/fascination with the ‘70s continues on the gorgeous “Rockingchair Dancer.” With a haunting music box melody and gentle, waltzing rhythms, it’s one of the record’s most infectious pieces and may be the best Broemel solo track to date. Almost as strong is the relatively more aggressive “Snowflake,” which reveals the guitarist’s ear for old world melodies and new world symphonies all under the general, hazy guise of rock ‘n’ roll.
Broemel doesn’t wear his influences all that openly on his sleeve but instead reveals reference points that suggest rather than define. The beauty of “Landing Gear” hints at Big Star’s Third but with a sincerity and sanity that Alex Chilton could not have mustered in that hour of darkness. This, too, separates Broemel from many of his contemporaries: there are rays of optimism virtually everywhere in his songs, something many of his contemporaries might find sentimental or even wide-eyed. That he’s one of the rare artists who embraces those tendencies makes his music all the more refreshing.
While there is a certain uniformity of sound and mood that holds this record together, it doesn’t result in monotony. The penultimate “Crawlspace” feels like its predecessors but contains jazz and folk flourishes all its own. Though it’s unlikely Broemel would ever release a whole album like this, if he chose to do so it would more than likely succeed given his skills as a player and arranger who seeks to give the listener a multi-dimensional experience.
On the closing “Best of” he suggests the best is yet to come, and perhaps that’s true of his career as well. 4th of July would be impressive in anyone’s discography, but it’s especially remarkable from a voice that’s delivered some of his generation’s most imaginative music. Joined by a cast of characters that includes Neko Case and Laura Veirs, Broemel holds his own on his latest album, though that can hardly be a surprise. Like the holiday for which it’s named, this is an album worth celebrating.