Like Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’, Bart Davenport has seen many an era. He’s been a mod, a bluesman and a softrock troubadour. His latest full-length album, ‘Physical World’ (Lovemonk/Burger) is a culmination of all those incarnations and more. With shirts from the 60s, guitars from the 80s and the timeless voice of a real crooner, it’s a one-of-a-kind hybrid of paisley pop and sweet soul. One foot in reality, the other firmly planted in the fantasy world within the three minute pop song, Bart tells of life and love in the modern world with sincerity and a subtle sense of humor.
Davenport recently migrated to Los Angeles to form a new band lineup with the help of bassist and pal, Jessica Espeleta. She brought in Wayne Faler (Dream Boys), whose signature jangly guitars weave their way impeccably into Bart’s songs. Nathan Shafer plays piano and synthesizers while drummers Andres Renteria and Paul Burkhart take turns on the kit. Producer, Luke Top (Fool’s Gold) captures the group’s undeniable chemistry on ‘Physical World’. This is the sound of an artist at his peak backed by an accomplished team of like-minded musicos.
The album opens with the northern soul tinged ‘Wearing The Changes’, a feel good, inspirational jam, dedicated to old friends. Davenport’s Motown rhythm is complimented by Faler’s Orange Juice flavored guitar work. Track two is ‘Fuck Fame’, a catchy dance floor musing on the merits of anonymity, climaxing with an abstract blues solo from Davenport. Next up is ‘Dust In The Circuits’, a tale of isolation in the big city. Bacharach-ian lounge chords are set to a new wave backbeat and Marr-esque guitars. On Your Own Planet’ continues in this vein. Finally, side one closes with ‘Girl Gotta Way’. This ballad in minor key features Bart’s dramatic baritone on a bed of syhthesizers, complimented by film noir guitar from Faler.
Side two starts with the rock & roll-y ‘Pamela’ followed by ‘Physical World’, a softrock shuffle with an existential slant. The title track discusses the balance between fantasy and reality, between “the gravity of this time” and “the weightless of space”. Track three, ‘Every Little Step’, has an r&b feel and is followed by the decidedly power pop, ‘Vow’. Next is ‘Color Bleu’, an abject and synthy ballad with an unapologetic rhyme scheme. Producer, Luke Top brings the west coast atmosphere of tom toms and plate reverb to the closing track, ‘Loop In My Head’, a final statement about breaking out of depression, obsession and monotony. The song, like much of the whole album, has a feel that is both humble and triumphant. That might be Davenport in a nutshell. The same contrast is captured in Freddy Cristy’s cover art. A cartoon superhero is perched on the edge of a building, not fighting crime at the moment, just changing a guitar string.
[Lovemonk / Burger Records]
Street Date: March 4, 2014