The Sails

A Headful of Stars

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To listen to the Sails, you'd assume (a) the band's heyday was in the mid- to late 1960s, and (b) bandleader Michael Gagliano has a pretty powerful appetite for hallucinogens. There's no hard data available on Gagliano's chemical intake, but since he cut the Sails' first album in 2006, he's obviously clever enough to fool us on at least one level. 2010's A Headful of Stars, the Sails' third album, is an impressive amalgam of '60s pop and psychedelic influences, full of ringing guitars, bubbling basslines, thick keyboard lines, imaginative percussive patterns, massed vocals, and sharp, clever melodies that hold the whole thing together. Gagliano (who plays all the instruments but the drums) has an impressive gift for writing songs that bend classic pop-psych archetypes into new and entertaining shapes; "The Man Who Broke In Half" could pass for the trippiest James Bond theme song ever, while "Travel" suggests what might have happened if the Byrds had gone to India along with the Beatles. If the surfaces of A Headful of Stars don't always seem strikingly original, the execution is impressive and Gagliano's skills as a songwriter, musician, and producer are all similarly impressive; his studio creations don't miss a trick, and this is the rare "one-man band" album that flows like it was performed by a real group. There's nothing wrong with wearing your influences on your sleeve if you're able to do right by them, and Gagliano has done that and more on the Sails' A Headful of Stars; this is psychedelic pop that sounds fresh and inviting, even if no one has slipped you a funny looking sugar cube lately.

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