Mark McAdam

Boy Wonder

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

This is a low-key, hidden gem of a record. Not quite a diamond, maybe a Diamel, but still very pretty. Boy Wonder is influenced by all manner of great pop like the Beach Boys, Pavement, Aztec Camera, Motown, the Band, and Seals & Crofts; it sounds like the kind of record Wilco might make if they never read their own press clippings. Unpretentious and bouncy, filled with sunshine and love, even the slow ballads are good-natured (although not as successful as the up-tempo numbers partially due to McAdam's over-singing them just a touch). Tracks like the peppy "Too Hard" and the near-Bluegrass "Driftwood" are the work of a very promising artist with a knack for creating memorable hooks. He also pays a lot of attention to the arrangement of his songs: tracks like "Hello I Must Be," a beautiful instrumental built out of surface noise, cellos, halting piano, chiming xylophone, and the Waits-like lurch of "The Rouxs," with its wailing Theremin and growled background vocals, both show the signs of a craftsman in training. A couple of tracks could actually stand a little bit of the dynamic pretension Wilco uses to their advantage so well, it might serve to break up the pleasant nature of the record; songs like "I Put the Couch Outside Again" kind of slide past, sounding good but not really resonating. Still that is a minor problem, it doesn't make Boy Wonder any less of a happy surprise, as it is a fine debut. There can never be enough smart, well-constructed adult pop, so add Mark McAdam to the list of practitioners approved of by AMG.

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