Brandon Schott

Release

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With nearly 20 instruments credited to him -- and that's not including the band and guest musicians -- the debut record from Los Angeles pop confectioner Brandon Schott would seem guilty of the crime of virgin studio excess if the sum of its many parts didn't produce such a rich frosting. While Release does sound like the work of a musician who's spent the majority of his life stooped over endless crates of unsorted vinyl at estate sales, charting studio arrangements in his head for what seemed at the time like an unattainable dream, Schott's obvious reverence for British Invasion and early-'90s alternative rock and pop never feels like a facsimile, just an echo. Wielding a voice that harnesses the hush of Joe Pernice and the acerbic bite of Michael Penn, Schott writes songs about life, home, and heartache with a deft pen. The opener, a slice of folk-rock splendor that showcases David Kalish's serpentine Dobro work, is the perfect milieu for the songwriter. His easy cadence makes for an inviting introduction, and the entire first half of the record revels in its very existence. "Afterglow," with its Americana, California-kissed chorus, and the vaudeville romp "Paper Wings" show an artist of considerable talent in love with his medium. The second half has its moments, especially the gorgeous "Let Me Sleep" -- featuring a string arrangement that could stop traffic -- but it falls under the weight of barroom filler like "Burning the Days" and the nearly six-minute marathon snorer "Still Life." These are minor gripes though, and Schott has a way with putting a new spin on an old idea, which is what pop music is all about anyway. This is not the kind of record that will start a revolution; instead, Release feels like an old friend that may or may not have a place in your life anymore but holds a permanent space in your heart.

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