Peter Salett, a New York fixture, has always sounded as though he'd be more at home on the Left Coast, since his breezy, sunny songs have already made the trip, sonically speaking. In fact, Salett's core sound -- melodious acoustic, jangly electrics, yearning steels (pedal and lap), subtle drumming, innocuous bass, occasional keys -- virtually mirrors that of oft-neglected country rocker Neal Casal, a New Jersey native with a distinctly California sound. Salett also shares Casal's bordering-on-fey vocal delivery, both artists dead-set on conveying deep emotions through their angelic voices. But whereas Casal's writing effectively conjures up a wistful SoCal vibe in clever, heartfelt narratives -- helping some listeners get past the over-easy vocals -- Salett's lyrics read at times like overwrought poetry in a lovesick high school student's journal: "And I show you my cover/And ask you to reveal/What we both discover/When we peel" ("My Whisper"); or the equally clunky "Now you say you want to travel far/Away from me inside the car/But I'll be around baby, don't you know" ("If You're Dreaming"). Some songs stand out despite their lightweight lyrics: the chugging "Still Alone Without You" gathers momentum like a jilted lover bent on a bender; "With Anybody Else" is an electric harpsichord-driven, love-gone-sour song reminiscent of This Perfect World-era Freedy Johnston; "I Fly So High," is a finger-picked, acoustic country blues gem. But in a time when country-stained, folk-inflected rockers pop up with Whack-a-Mole frequency, there has to be something extra going on to keep the listener from deploying the mallet and moving on to the next shiny object. The beauty of After a While is all too fleeting for that to occur.
After a While Review
by John Schacht