Peter Salett plants plenty of bite in the acoustic-based pop/rock tunes that comprise his debut album, Paintings of These Days. There is a gritty undercurrent both in the lyrics and the arrangements of these songs, which are laced with judicious sprinklings of country, grunge, and soul. Salett laments lost friendships, struggles with fading dreams, even describes suicidal fantasies. Let's just say that not all of the days painted here were of the red-letter variety. But that said, don't come to Paintings looking for heart-rending confessional purgation or asphyxiating doses of teen rock angst. Salett has a knack for crafting natty pop hooks, and his songwriting instinct never strays far from the essentially optimistic foundation this implies. Even his darkest themes are explicated within the framework of a charmingly good-natured persona that never fails to communicate its enjoyment of the artistic enterprise. Salett gets a kick out of doing this stuff and he doesn't mind if we notice. These traits carry him through a minefield of freshman pitfalls. As you might expect from a self-produced debut released on a start-up independent label, the record is a little rough around the edges. Much of the composition would benefit from tweaking and tightening. And though Salett's lyrics are often expressive and insightful, he has a regrettable tendency to lapse into thoughtless clunkiness. But these faults are easy to overlook in a promising first effort by an emerging talent with big-league potential.