Friday, September 7, 2012

Review - Phil Solem - Hodgepodge

Has it been THAT LONG since I added music reviews? Time to catch up!

One of the reasons a fella starts writing album reviews, aside from mental dysfunction, is because he’s found an amazing album and wants to share this discovery. In the case of Phil Solem’s Hodgepodge, I’ve had to sit on this self-produced and recorded treasure for eighteen months, at one point even being driven to contact the artist to see if there was anything I could do to help him give these incredible songs an official release. Mr. Solem was extremely accommodating and receptive but life happened to one or both of us and the next thing I know it’s 2011.

However that’s all in the past. What’s “now” is that you can download and immerse yourself in twelve astounding songs by half of the power-pop duo The Rembrandts. Much like Lennon was the cynical side to McCartney’s saccharine, Solem is the darker, heavier, humorous wink to Danny Wilde’s romantic pop sheen. As a result, the songs are undeniably romantic but well traveled and worn, a mature expression of someone who’s had the world in his hand only to decide that musical integrity was more important than robotically regurgitating a hit jingle at shopping malls across America.

As if to sum up the album before he begins, Solem starts things off with “Back@TheBeginningAgain”, a mid-tempo rocker with brilliant shafts of pop and sage lyrics of “When you get to the end / You’re right back at the beginning again.” The fuzzy “Out The Window” continues the theme of self-discovery in an analogy of a building with mirrored windows that was erected too close to his own so that now where there used to be sky there is only “a reflection of myself” whenever he looks out. Grungy bass and solid drumming encourage you to “just enjoy the ride” of life in the power-pop masterpiece “Questions Without Answers,” a song so invigorating it’s like hanging onto a motorcycle at full throttle, sans helmet of course. Likewise the quirky, careening “Shining in the Sun” loads on the breezy atmosphere of surfing on a California beach with not a cloud in the sky.

For every rock song Solem also includes a love song, or in many cases an unrequited love song. “Naïve” is almost a crooner with anguished lyrics of “My mind’s ached ever since I’ve been away / Imagining the perfect thing to say to you” and “Take me back and I’ll make you believe / That I only mean the best / I’m so naïve” over simple guitar and hand percussion. Evoking a jazzy feel from the thirties “Just Because” exudes a playful feel right down to a tasteful and tasty guitar solo. A personal favorite is “I’m Your Man, Baby” where Phil opines “If you’re lucky you’ll find / Someone else of your kind” over a jaunty rhythm and just the right amount of piano, organ and vocal harmonies destined to tug a smile to your face and a tap from your foot.

Phil Solem is at the top of his game with Hodgepodge. He has few peers when it comes to crafting a solid song full of melodic hooks. There’s not a dull song in the bunch, each one polished to perfection with lyrics that capture a mood in just a few words. While he handles all the instruments on the album with apparent ease he is foremost a rock guitarist and his immaculate skill and love of tone shine through on every track. And then there’s the crystal clear production and tasteful song arrangements and… what are you waiting for? If you love intelligent rock music click over to and treat yourself to a dozen sonic gems.

No comments: