(Carterco Recordings, digital download)
Patrick McCormack has been an unsung voice in the Burlington music scene. He recently served as the namesake for Bandleader — the act was originally advertised as "Patrick McCormack" — and handled lead vocals on that band's October 2013 debut album, Coal, Pressure, Time. He has also released two solo EPs under Chicago label Carterco Recordings, and occasionally takes the stage solo at Radio Bean or the Monkey House. But he hasn't quite broken into the upper echelon of the downtown music circles.
That could change with the release of his newest EP, A-C-K. McCormack — aided by his partner Katherine Lika's stunning backing vocals — weaves the Arctic Monkeys' sly sex appeal with moments of '80s synth pop and the smoother edges of alternative rock, forging a memorable and eclectic sound.
A-C-K is more of a collection of six individual tracks than a cohesive musical opus, but the listening is no worse for wear. The opener, "Official Claim," follows a tried-and-true rock formula: Build the drums and guitar, then open it up. Yet despite McCormack's strong vocal work, the song is a tad too bland and obvious.
However, the second track, "Gwen Stacy," is sexy, slick and seriously good. Billed as the EP's single, it's the perfect soundtrack to making eyes with someone across the bar. Driving drums from Jamie Carter set the ticking pulse for McCormack's lustful turns of phrases: "Like a heartbeat / I can understand the rhythm of two feet / coming down the staircase when it's too late / you were waiting by the bottom with a suitcase / What a sweet face / I memorized the curvature of your waist / coming down the staircase when it's too late / you had never forgiven me in the first place."
McCormack's delivery is appropriately low and beckoning. Lika sneaks in on the chorus, offering one-liners such as "just think what we could do together" and "I want you so bad it hurts."
The remainder of the EP is a genre tour de force. "Gangland Myth" is a longing, guitar-heavy rock interlude. "Forgotten Towns" evokes Blitzen Trapper's jaunty folk. "He's a Ghost" brings '80s cool, with cascading piano and a synth undercurrent. The EP closes with "I Do," a delicate, woodsy, acoustic number. It's noticeably slower and more romantic than the other tracks. But Lika's pretty, flickering voice softens the sharp transition.
Patrick McCormack's A-C-K is like the slow, fading burn of an Indian summer. It captures the feeling of dusk turning to dark and the excitement of knowing the night is still young. It also might gain him entrance into the local songwriting elite.
A-C-K by Patrick McCormack is available at patrickmccormack.bandcamp.com.