David West / David West with Teardrops

Cherry on Willow

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David West could have kicked back and taken the rest of 2017 off. He'd already conquered it with his band Rat Columns and their excellent album Candle Power, but he's not the kind of guy to settle for one album when two could be made. So he went ahead and released his second solo album, Cherry on Willow, and proceeded to win the year even further. Recorded in a few different locations with a loose collection of friends who included Louis Hooper of Rat Columns, Raven Mahon of Grass Widow, drummer Griffin Harrison, Bob Jones of Eaters, and the only guy busier than he is, Mikey Young, the album is an improvement on West's solid debut, Peace or Love. Focused where that album was scattered, Cherry on Willow is top-heavy with sparkling pop songs that have sparse arrangements and easygoing hooks that may seem shallow on first listen, but sink in deeply over a few spins. West's understated vocals and idiosyncratic lyrics pair perfectly with the simple guitar-bass-drums-and-occasional-keys approach that most of the record's songs employ. Simple, but remarkably effective, as tracks like the T. Rex-ian title track and the midnight funky "Love Comes On" show. When a song's basic tracks are so stripped down, every little thing added to the mix becomes important, and West proves a master at the tweaks and extra bits that make the songs pop like crazy. He also brings some synthy melancholy into the album with the long dub dirge of "Time to Forget" and dub disco of "Swan's Beat" and, as expected, shows a mastery of this form too. To balance these moments of shade, he throws the blinds open on a couple of the tenderest pop tunes he's laid down in his short and insanely busy career. "Call Me Sometime" sports some corny barroom piano and a loping beat, and only needs some falsetto to sound like a lost Leo Sayer album track; "Reds for the Blues" features West's most openhearted vocal on the record and some peppy guitar chunks. Then, just to prove he doesn't miss a trick, there's a genius bit of disco-pop near the end of the record, "Soft," where West makes it clear that he could have hits if he wanted to (and if the world of pop music were totally different). It makes for the kind of record that feels like a summation of all the good things West has done, wrapped up in one shiny package for anyone who has heard his past works to enjoy. It's also a perfect place to discover just how well West can blend genres, sounds, and styles to make great modern pop music, all without seemingly breaking a sweat.

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