Robert Gomez

Brand New Towns

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Following the same path he took in his 2005 album Etherville, on Brand New Towns Robert Gomez plays shimmery, melancholy indie pop songs that speak of love found and love lost, layering his vocals delicately over acoustic guitar and piano, strings and brass, melodica and organ. But despite all of this, Gomez's music is anything but ornate; it's chamber pop played in the Texas plains, without pretension or excess adornment. In fact, it's the sparseness of it all that comes across more than the gloomy cello or plinking keyboards, echoing through his soft voice and intimate lyrics. He's definitely taken a clue from Elliott Smith, double-tracking his vocals into the sad but slightly threatening melodies that the late singer did so well. "You're so perfect without me," he whispers in the lovely, neo-Baroque "Perfect," with bittersweet piano and French horn weaving around behind, gently building up and then coming away, only a hesitant accordion backing him as he mumbles "I still remember the time we ran away," the longing and the regret almost more audible than the words themselves. Unlike Smith, however, Gomez also writes happier songs, where people are content and in love, or at least have the possibility of arriving there. Both "The Leaving" and "Into the Sun" are optimistic and poppy, and even the opener, "Closer Still," while not exactly jubilant, offers the hope that one day the two characters will be together. He's a consistently strong writer, focusing on structure and space, not overloading his songs with needless ornamentation. This means that even the tracks that settle comfortably into the background ("You Need Somebody," "Back to Me") are welcomed, enhancing the overall feel of the record, giving it substance and foundation, and the one piece that moves out of the first person singular and comments on society, "Brand New Towns," is excellent, enticing in its dark, rolling guitar arpeggios and sloping bassline. A mature step forward for Gomez, Brand New Towns is a more developed and intricate piece of work that shows off his musicianship, sense of subtlety, and supreme attention to craft, and is an impressive accomplishment.

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