Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Brian Vander Ark “Magazine”

Brian Vander Ark has been quietly cranking out one amazing record after another since going solo from the underrated band The Verve Pipe (remember their big hit, “The Freshmen”?). His latest, “Magazine”, continues to impress with insightful (and often amusing) lyrics and engaging melodies. The record was completed once again with immaculate production from Bill Szymczyk.

As you might gather from the cover art, Vander Ark’s fourth solo release has a lighter tone in sharp contrast to the more somber predecessors. It would seem that he’s been moved lately by love and family, perhaps an extension of The Verve Pipe’s 2009 children’s record, “A Family Album”. But Vander Ark, thankfully, is a complex character and it’s sometimes hard to tell when he is being sarcastic. But one thing is undeniable: these songs possess many of his trademark catchy hooks and this time out they are generally housed in brighter, poppier song arrangements. The charm of “No Getting Over You”, “Just Another Heartbreak”, and the bouncy rhythm of “My Independence Day” exemplify this sunny attitude. “Miracle Mile” is a welcome Vander Ark standard – a gentle track fingerpicked on guitar with some light piano as accompaniment – damn near sounding like a classic Billy Joel song. If you enjoy Vander Ark’s ballads, you also won’t want to miss the beautiful love song, “On The Day I Fell”.

Other notable cuts include a homage to his home state in “Michigan Coast To Coast” (he knew Kid Rock when he was just a kid) that anyone from The Wolverine State will appreciate. There’s also an epic storytelling track called “My Little Town” co-written with Jeff Daniels (yeah, the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ guy!) complete with a hint of country twang. His satirical look at the social networking craze is encapsulated in the tune “Facebook Friend”.

As Vander Ark advises, “Every mile can be a miracle mile”, every record by this guy is a little musical miracle.

Brian Vander Ark – Official site.

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