Bart Davenport

Physical World

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West Coast singer/songwriter Bart Davenport has been a lot of things over the course of his long career: a bluesy garage rocker, a retro-soul crooner, a folkie on his most recent solo album Searching for Bart Davenport. What he does best, though, is '70s-tinged soft rock, and his 2014 album Physical World works incredibly well because it sticks closely to the soft sounds/sweet melodies/catchy songs formula of his best album (2003's Game Preserve). Working with a small band that includes guitarist Wayne Faler of Dream Boys, bassist Jessica Espeleta, a couple of drummers, and keyboardist Nathan Shafer, Davenport gets a sound that's simple and direct, while still radiating warmth through the speakers like one of those lamps people use to fight seasonal affective disorder. His soothing vocals are the focus, as he floats through the songs like the reincarnation of some lost Laurel Canyon craftsman dropping nuggets of wistful wisdom and comforting broken hearts along the way. The band is right there with him at all times, Faler's guitar fills and leads are exemplary, and Shafer provides rich beds of synths and gentle electric piano vamping that give the songs some extra kick. The variety of sounds and styles the group explores on the album is impressive too, ranging from late-night ballads (the very 10cc-sounding "Girl Gotta Way") and bouncy '80s radio pop ("Dust in the Circuits") to pulsing rockers that sound like Rick Springfield if he were way more relaxed ("Vow"), and even a little politics on the most chill protest song of all time ("Fuck Fame"). Whatever strain of soft rock they try, Davenport and his able crew sound like they are having a blast playing and singing, and that feeling translates to the listener. It makes the album a true pleasure to listen to, and Physical World gives Game Preserve a run for its money as Davenport's best stuff yet.

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