CD of the Day, July 8, 2011,

Posted on Jul 8, 2011 | 0 comments

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In 2007 Seth Swirsky & Mike Ruekberg, establish power poppers in their own right, teamed up as The Red Button to give us one of the top power pop albums of the decade with She’s About to Cross My Mind. It was our #1 album of that year and came the closest to capturing both the sound – and more importantly, the spirit – of an early-to-mid period Beatles album. It wasn’t a Rutles-style pastiche but rather a collection of a dozen or so extremely strong tunes that evoked the era without aping it. And what propelled it to the next level is that you had two distinct singer-songwriters bringing their songs to the table, with Ruekberg playing Lennon to Swirsky’s McCartney.

So needless to say, expectations are high for the followup, and for the most part the expectations are met. There’s a little bit less Beatles here, with an element of 70s-styled singer-songwriter sound in its place, but the end result is bound to please anyone who loved the first album. Things start strongly in the vein of the first album with Ruekberg’s excellent and insanely catchy “Caught in the Middle”, right out of the Help!-era playbook with Rickenbacker and harmonica galore. (His “I Can’t Forget”, which appears later in the album, is another great Beatles ’65 homage.) Following is the sophisticated pop of Swirsky’s title track, a moody midtempo number that compares favorably to some of the debut’s standout tracks like “It’s No Secret” and “Floating By”. Speaking of “Floating By”, the piano-based “Picture” is this album’s closest cousin with its Bacharachian feel.

The passionate Ruekberg rocker “Girl, Don’t” ups the jangle factor, while his lovely “Easier” evokes “Something”. Swirsky meanwhile pines for a pair of ladies named “Genevieve” and “Sandreen”, with the former the subject of a string-laden pop confection, and the latter a very 70s-sounding tune that’s just as much breezy Stevie Wonder as breezy McCartney. Elsewhere “On a Summer Day” lives up to its title with its carefree melody and some great vocal interplay between our two principals, and the vaguely funky “You Do Something to Me” draws its inspiration from Paul Simon’s early solo career. And like the debut with “It’s No Secret”, the album closes in strong fashion with “Running Away”, a piano and guitar number that shifts the focus from the girls-of-their-dreams to an inward look that casts all that came before it in a different light, a well-played turn that grounds the album nicely.

Part of what made the debut a power pop phenomenon was that it came as a revelation; followups by definition in these cases always come without this advantage. But if it were possible to “unhear” the debut, As Far as Yesterday Goes would be just as much a jaw-dropper. and coming up with 12 near-perfect pop songs is never as easy as it sounds. For that, this album will rightfully earn its spot at or near the top of my 2011 list, and should earn an immediate spot on your music player of choice.

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