BY FRED MILLS
Tell ya what: if 2011’s Our Little Secret was, well… our little secret—the implied “us” being the oft-insular power pop community of fans and critics—then this D.C. rocker’s new album Vanishing Act will surely put the lie to its titular suggestion. Bursting with sonic buoyancy and lyrical resolve, its dozen tunes make an essential case for Edward O’Connell’s nomination for this year’s best kept songwriting secret.
Track after track here—the heartbeat-thumping gem “Every Precious Day”; sturdy Tom Pettyish jangler “Severance Kiss”; blazing album closer “The End of the Line,” which is surely the best song Nick Lowe never wrote; the stately “Odds Against Tomorrow”—finds its way to earworm status. O’Connell, singing in a voice clearly informed by early exposure to Elvis Costello but tinged with a genial Americana warmth, understands how to make the nuances of the pop-rock format work in his favor, and its how he leavens his material with subtlety and wry humor that leaves the listener nodding and smiling at the sonic bearhug being received.
With additional dips into pedal steel-powered country-rock and ‘60s baroque piano/guitar/strings pop demonstrating O’Connell’s mastery of pretty much every form within reach (regarding the latter, BLURT fave Parthenon Huxley turns up on backing vocals on the title track, which makes for additional reasons to cheer), Vanishing Act ultimately becomes a must-hear. If you’re a true music lover and aficionado of sharp songcraft, don’t be a dummy and pass on this album.
DOWNLOAD: “The End of The Line,” “Severance Kiss,” “Vanishing Act”