Danny James, Etc. - Pear
Danny James, Etc. released the under-the-radar masterpiece that is PEAR on cassette in 2013, with subsequent re-releases on vinyl and CD in 2015. Four years after its original release, this boldly significant collection of songs sounds as fresh and impressive as ever. In fact, PEAR is one of those rare musical statements that actually grows stronger in one's consciousness rather than quietly receding into the hazy sea of albums past.
And WMF is certainly not alone in our fondness for PEAR. Ariel Pink reflected: "PEAR is the quantum entangling of atomized mental ephemera,Dancing about an ecosystem of plastic plantations....Danny James' music occupies city hall, loitering in teapot shanties with time released viagra femme boost steroids like a Mr. Tea drag queen. " But the proof is the pudding, they say, and there's plenty of pudding here, courtesy Danny James, Etc.
Start with: "Tight Lipped", "Lydia", and "Boomerang Kids"
Why it's worth revisiting: PEAR offers top-notch songwriting, stellar performances, and plenty of twists-and-turns that welcome repeated listenings.
With its back atmospheric backward sounds, ELO/Queen-like backing vocals, and defiantly funky groove, “Tight Lipped” opens this album in grand style. In addition to the aforementioned elements, this track showcases everything the listener will experience for the remainder of the flawless album: complex arrangements, sophisticated chord changes, gnarly guitar work, and exceptional vocal performances that evoke classic 20th century pop while nonetheless standing on their own fresh and unique merits.
“Guantanamo Baby” follows immediately, and majestically confirms that the lead track is not merely an anomaly, but rather the Danny James standard. “Smelling Ghost” lends further diversity to the eclectic Danny James palette with its atmospheric bed of keyboards, guitars, synths, and Bay Area horns. In step with the rest of the album, this track also features a real rarity these days – deft and succinct instrumental soloing that augments rather than distracts, and never enters the dreaded domain of noodling. “Lydia” is so good that it’s tempting to call it a highlight, but the uniform quality of this album is such that it is more accurate to simply add that it is yet another excellent song in this collection. The track's skillful vocals, instantly-memorable theme, clever bridge, layered guitars, and pleasantly- unexpected turns add up to nothing short of recorded brilliance.
“Without Reluctance” again inhabits unlikely territory with its funk/pop/r&b hybrid, and does so flawlessly. The unexpected bridge – meshing TV samples, guitars, and synths - isso irresistible that even the jaded listener might have to contend with the unfamiliar urge to smile.
Though it’s not possible to pick an absolute favorite track on this album, a strong argument could be made for “Boomerang Kids”. Despite its initially laid-back feel, the track’s soaring vocals, engaging lyrics, dynamic range, and labyrinthine arrangement invite repeated listenings. The spoken bridge, instrumental sections, and stacked vocals make this entry a mini-odyssey that confidently delivers on its ambitions.
“Dear Heart” earns its place in the collection with its able guitar work, sojourns to Santana-like territory, and a delightful harmonically-descending motif woven throughout. Without straying too far from the permeating feel of PEAR, “Lucke” is probably the most rocking of its offerings, while the eccentrically exquisite “(That’s Not) The Plan” successfully provides an almost prog-rock mashup of time signatures and feels, while somehow remaining disarmingly accessible. As its title suggests, “Without Reluctance (Reprise)” is a reworking of “Without Reluctance”. This percussive instrumental version works in its own rite, and is a welcome addition to the album. The formidable guitar-driven grit of 2015 bonus track “Water Moccasin” gives “Lucke” a run for its proverbial money in the rock category, lending even further diversity to this remarkable statement.
You can find, listen to, and buy PEAR here.