Contemporary pop music is in dire need of a swift kick in the ass. And polishing his boots is 25-year-old New Yorker Binocular who, on his self-titled 2001 debut release, serves up a different kind of pop, one that combines classic and retro flavor with an edgy contemporary sound to support his earnest vocals. Will audiences listen? Hopefully. Binocular is talented on many fronts, and crafting interesting lyrical meters is one of them. This is best evidenced on the John Hughes-movie-like "You," a mid-tempo pop/rock song that is marked by a distinct yearning in Binocular's voice. In fact, this wide-eyed innocence characterizes the singer's vocal sound and, on this cut, his performance is reminiscent of Steve Winwood on "Valerie." Princes become paupers and fools wear the crown on the inspiring and thoughtful track "Everything Turns Around." On his salute to the persevering underdog, Binocular sounds like an edgier Duncan Sheik and deftly melds modern synthesizer, guitar, and drum machine sounds. Other choice cuts round out this very impressive and unique first effort. The retro-influenced "You Were the One" recalls Yaz's song "Only You," but with a contemporary edge. Binocular's take on the "one who got away" is endearing, intelligent, and a lasting piece of music. Elsewhere, Manfred Mann's "Blinded By the Light" (!) gets a nod on the keyboard intro featured on "Don't Say Goodbye, Say Goodnight." There's something about saying goodnight that is not as final as saying goodbye in terms of a failing relationship, and Binocular affectingly captures the sentiment on this song. To his credit, Binocular extracts from his equipment sounds that are fresh and interesting. These range from thoughtful and hypnotic to retro-sounding and entirely off the beaten path. The musician's combination of unconventional pop music with his wide-eyed-wonder singing is a winning formula. And, as a songwriter, Binocular's lyrics have universal appeal. While 2001 saw such acts as BBMak and Evan and Jaron saturating the pop/rock airwaves, Binocular stands poised to take them out. He's got more substance than said performers and their contemporaries, and steers clear of the schmaltz. (One gets the idea that he couldn't be schmaltzy even if he tried.) Binocular is real, sincere, and able to harness sentiment and present it to audiences in pop/rock fare that is cutting edge while encompassing sounds of yesteryear. (Think Simon and Garfunkel meets Moby meets David Gray, and then add on a sound that has, thus far, been untapped.) You don't need binoculars to see this rising star's talent.
AllMusic Review by Liana Jonas