Brandon Wiard

Painting a Burning Building

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"You speak German," Brandon Wiard gushes, after complimenting the object of "Already in Amazement" on how great she looks in blue jeans. By the time it is discovered that she also plays the cello, it's impossible not to guess and endorse Wiard's next rhyme -- "I feel my legs turning to Jell-O..." This is because simplistic bliss like this makes indie pop antithetical to agenda. There's no proving how dirty your guitar tone is, or "songs" that amount to jagged treatises on apathy toward the listener. Like work from the Apples in Stereo, Saturday Looks Good to Me, or even Ben Kweller, Wiard's Painting a Burning Building coats its craft in the gooey white love foam of Casiotone and melodica, horn sections and sleigh bells. It's here to entertain, but also to be wistful about the little things, painting in primary color, conveying emotion but keeping the output planar, like a Roy Lichtenstein print hanging in a bedroom mini-studio. There are songs about girls ("Amazement"; the bittersweet strings and piano of "Caroline"), songs strengthened by their vocal presence (the anthemic "Moving On"), and the inevitable trip into winding pop concept grandiosity, the story of a relationship buffeted by strong winds and stronger wills. "Old Heartless Sun" is that concept cut on Burning Building -- aided and abetted by members of the Original Brothers and Sisters of Love, it crests from introduction into surging conflict and finally to whatever-may-come resolve. (Wiard takes care to specify contributions and demarcate the song's sections in the liners.) The track also sets up the album's thematic second half, where "Second Story" cases the joint before getting to crystallizing lyrics like "I wanna be your boyfriend...I'll be the sugar in your coffee...the light of your smoke," and reprises and preludes ponder and refract the shapes and moods of Burning Building's particular simmer. This isn't overdoing it. Wiard is working within a framework that allows for broad strokes as long as they're mostly brightly colored, which his definitely are. Besides, early numbers like "Miss Michigan" -- laced with more of Wiard's sardonic lyrical twists -- provide concise counterbalance for the lengthier flights. Painting a Burning Building has a sturdy melodic glisten overall, nice production work throughout, and the kind of intent that should entice fans of rendered pop that's attentive to life's most common flaws and feelings.

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