Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CD of the Day, 10/22/08: Cliff Hillis-The Long Now

With so many artists out there and so many records to hear, and so little time in which to listen to it all, an artist who delivers consistently great music is worth his or her weight in gold. And in the power pop community, very few artists fit this bill as Cliff Hillis does. From his work in Starbelly (whose brilliant 2002 release Everyday and Then Some deserves a spot in the Top 20 power pop discs of the decade) and Ike to his high-quality solo work, Hillis is a known quantity, and his brand new solo disc The Long Now is another feather in his cap.

All of what I said above means that I'd buy his records sight unseen (or hearing unheard I guess), making the rest of this review superfluous for those familiar with his work, but for the uninitiated or those who have overlooked him, Hillis' sound is the golden mean of power pop - punchy enough to satisfy fans of Fountains of Wayne or Cheap Trick, but melodic enough to satisfy fans of Squeeze, Michael Carpenter and Paul McCartney. The rollicking, acoustic-based "She Sees" opens the track in "I've Just Seen a Face" territory, and it's followed by the brilliant "Never Understand", an electric guitar-heavy melodic gem that recalls his Starbelly days. By the time "Elevator" rolls around three tracks in, you're left to marvel at how effortless his sound seems as another near-perfect melody wafts through your speakers. And the rest of the album lives up to the standards - "Northern Lights" rocks with grace; "Follow You Anywhere" is more bright pop; "Like an Island" is positively majestic; and "All For The Sake" has a laid-back, country-rock-pop sound that reminds me of Carpenter and Bryan Estepa.

When the year-end list rolls around, there may be only be one digit in front of the period on this one, and make sure you pick it up through Not Lame or Kool Kat, where you get a bonus EP of 6 songs that include tribute tracks (including a cover of McCartney's "This One") and his contest-winning Chili's baby back ribs jingle.

Not Lame | Kool Kat | MySpace | Listen at Lala