Andy Stochansky

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Years removed from his gig as Ani DiFranco's drummer, Andy Stochansky indulges his fans with this double-disc effort including his new studio album and a live recording. The album, produced by Johnny Rzenik of Goo Goo Dolls, is a rich, lush, and at times orchestral attempt to place smart melodic songs into a larger, fleshed-out sound that harks back at times to classic Bowie. Fans of Coldplay, U2, and Keane will notice this instantly on the satisfying pop groove of "All the Things You Are," which uses the timeless 4/4 beat to make it soar by the time the first verse has concluded. "Take my hand and I will show you all the things you are," Stochansky sings before reining things back in prior to verse two. What works so well is how he uses traditionally classical instruments to fit the pop mold, especially on the catchy, head-bobbing, radio-friendly "Shine," which, well, shines. The same could be said for the closing, anthem-ish "Wish." "Best Years" takes a bit longer to appreciate and has a harder pop/rock edge, with much more bite. The roots style of "That Summer" is a nice change of pace and shows his singer/songwriter side, which resembles Howie Day. "One Man Symphony" comes off too produced or polished. The folksy "House of Gold" is also quite magical, recalling the best of Neil Finn or Ron Sexsmith. Stochansky nails the mood of the record with the melodic and gorgeous "Beautiful Thing," perhaps the highlight of the studio effort. The socially aware "America" is a rollicking rave-up that pushes into Replacements territory, while "Butterfly Song" sounds like the type of song the musician could do in his sleep. The live album, taken from a Toronto concert in August 2004, mixes some of the album tracks like the over the top "Loud" with earlier nuggets like the delightfully infectious "Stutter" to grand applause. "Alien" is a romping, foot-stomping pop tune that gallops along. The lone low point might be the distant, alt-country feel behind "Everest." It's a small inconvenience, though, especially considering the lovely and tender "22 Steps" and punchy "Superman."

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