It doesn't hurt that Swedish pop singer/songwriter Andreas Johnson is oh so easy on the eyes. Even if he wasn't, "Glorious," the addictive first single from his second solo disc Liebling ( Reprise ) combines the sixties retro feel of the best of Robbie Williams's songs with some off the chart vocals. Like equally sexy label-mate Sasha Alexander, Johnson has had success in Europe and is ready to crack the American market. It takes a while, however, to find something else on the disc that's approaches the glory of "Glorious." I liked "Do You Believe In Heaven," "Patiently," and "Please ( Do Me Right ) ," because they kind of reminded me of the eels. But there should have been more songs on the album like "Should Have Been Me" and "Safe From Harm." The disc also contains the videos for "Glorious" and "People."
Ike Reilly sounds like what might happen if you put Bob Dylan and E ( of the eels ) into a centrifuge on his debut album Salesmen And Racists ( Republic/Universal ) . The E influence can be heard on tracks such as "Last Time" ( from which the album's title is derived ) , "Angels And Whores" ( in which Reilly sings "All my pretty gay friends call my name/They say, Where you been? You cleaned up, you're looking good/Where're you playin'?" ) , and "Wasted Friends." You can hear echoes of Dylan on "Hip Hop," "Assassination," "New Year's Eve," "Duty Free," and "Crave Me." These comparisons don't do Reilly's work justice. Suffice to say that this, along with Peter Yorn's disc, are among the most memorable debuts of 2001.
"No Such Thing," the opening track on John Mayer's debut disc Room For Squares ( Aware ) is so instantly gratifying that I once listened to it, on repeat, six times on my disc man. Why isn't this song all over the airwaves? Atlanta-transplant Mayer wisely incorporated the brilliant bass work of David LaBruyere ( Michelle Malone ) into his songs, give them a bass line as sturdy as a spine. The rest of the album is consistently good and introduces us to another young straight guy following in Jeff Buckley's sadly vacated footsteps. "Why Georgia," "My Stupid Mouth," "Your Body Is A Wonderland," "83," "Back To You," and "Not Myself," are all exceptional, making this disc a strong contender for high placement on my end of the year list of discs.
With Adam Schlesinger ( Fountains Of Wayne ) at the helm, it's hard to go wrong. Just listen to Meg Hentges's Brompton's Cocktail to see what I mean. Schlesinger adds his distinctive production touch to David Mead's second album Mine And Yours ( RCA ) . Mead's songs, and subsequent performances of those songs, recall the Pauls ( McCartney and Simon ) in their pop sensibility and sensitivity. The title track, "Echoes Of A Heart," "Standing Here In Front Of Me," "Girl On The Roof" ( the most Schlesinger-esque track on the disc ) , "What's On Your Mind," and "Figure Of Eight," have sophisticated songcraft written all over them, and if you're as tired as I am of the prefab crap on the charts, then you should hear this album.
King Of Yesterday ( Maverick ) is the second major-label disc by Jude, the one-named singer/songwriter ( last name Christodal ) , who had a minor hit with the song "Rick James" from his 1998 Maverick records debut, No One Is Really Beautiful. As with that disc, Jude moves smoothly from dark, yet poignant, slow songs ( "Red Room," "I Do," "Teenage Girlfriend" ) to memorable pop tunes ( "Everything's All Right," "The Not So Pretty Princess," "Sit-Ups" ) with ease. Jude's cover of Bread's "Everything I Own," sung mostly in his distinctive falsetto, puts Boy George's remake to shame.
GLAMA-winning singer/songwriter David Clement turned me on to Useful Music ( Artemis ) by Josh Joplin Group. Shawn Mullins produced a majority of the disc, with ex-Talking Head Jerry Harrison taking the helm for a couple of others. It's easy to see the appeal to Mullins-- Joplin writes well-crafted, hummable pop songs, as you can hear on "Matter," "Here I Am" and "Trailways" ( both of which reminded me of recent REM ) , "Superstar" ( with its spoken-word segment ) , the literary allusion of "Who's Afraid Of Thomas Wolfe," and the lovely ode "Phil Ochs."
Released in England in 2000, Tom McRae's eponymous debut disc ( db/Arista ) received an abundance of praise from the British press. He's getting a lot of attention stateside because he is currently on tour with The Waterboys. While McRae's disc is not as good as, say, Ike Reilly's , compared to some of the other albums in this column, McRae does more than hold his own. Memorable songs such as "You Cut Her Hair," "2nd Law," "Draw Down The Stars," "Hidden Camera Show," "Language Of Fools," "Untitled," and "Sao Paulo Rain," introduce listeners to a new talent worth watching and following throughout his career.
I was not prepared for the turn that David ( pronounced da-veed ) Garza took on his second full-length major-label disc Overdub ( Lava/Atlantic ) . His 1998 debut disc This Euphoria was euphoric. Overdub is dark and eerie, with a rougher edge, right from the get go on the opening track "Drone." Repetitious, although not necessarily droning, the tune sets the tone for the rest of the disc. There are times when the album sounds like a comment on his music biz experience ( "Say Baby," "Bloodsuckers" ) , a spiritual quest ( "God's Hands," "Soul Custody," "Crown Of Thorns" ) or at times a combination of the two. I wish him luck in both cases.
The major-labels aren't the only place you'll find emerging and promising male talent. Kenli Mattus's Blue Dot ( Residential Limbo ) is every bit as good as its major-label counterparts. In July, Mattus won a contest sponsored by Steve Madden shoes and Jive Records, so we may be hearing more from him on a big budget level. Standout tracks include "Blame The Alcohol," "Blur," "What You Really Want," and his reverent cover of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones."
The debut to avoid-- at all costs-- is by soap star Jacob Young. His self-titled disc on Artemis belies both his age and his meager talent. If he wasn't so beautiful, than I might worry about him. If his looks have gotten him this far, a failed singing career is a drop in the bucket, especially at 21.