(Self-released, CD, digital download)
For more than a decade, Peter Day has co-fronted local rockers the Grift, a group whose technical prowess and innate knack for tight harmonies and sticky melodies have made them staples of the Vermont scene at large. That band’s most recent album, 2009’s Doppelganger, found them shedding some of their earlier jammy tendencies in favor of a leaner, more pop-centric sound. On his new solo record, Break Down the Heavy, Day continues that shift, delivering a sunny collection of tunes that should satisfy fans of the Grift and attract new listeners with a pop-rock sweet tooth.
On his website, Day outlays a lengthy list of influences that reads like who’s-who of pop-rock luminaries: Paul Simon, Rubber Soul-era Beatles, Tom Petty, James Taylor. Those are pretty common touchstones for anyone who has penned a catchy verse-chorus-verse in the last 50 years. And in Day’s case, he wears his influences proudly on his rolled-up Oxford shirtsleeves. He’s as unapologetic about them as he is his about his unabashed hooks.
“Been There All Along” sets the record’s upbeat tone with a driving groove and warm sheen of guitars and keys. Day drops the record’s title at the bridge, repeating, “Break down the heavy, gonna find a song.” If James Taylor and Paul Simon got together to out-soothe each other with agreeable crooning, it might sound something like this.
Day writes that his solo record was born out of finding beauty in dark times. “The Beauty That Surrounds” is the most overt example of that idea. And especially at the harmony-heavy, Doobie Brothers-styled chorus, it is undoubtedly beautiful. The same could be said of “If You Looked Both Ways.” Driven by a sparse piano progression and accented with steely (Dan) atmospherics, it is the album’s lone moment of darkness. But even given the song’s cloudy disposition, Day finds a ray of light and gives it voice with an uplifting blue-eyed-soul sensibility.
Forming the core of Day’s band are drummer Sean Preece, keyboardist Leon Campos and his Grift conspirator, Clint Bierman. They’re joined by percussionist Daiko Hirani, bassist Josh Weinstein, vocalists Jer Coons and Mike Pedersen, and, on the opening track, banjo player Seth Folsom. That’s a top-notch supporting cast. Collectively, they frame Day’s compositions with taste and tact, leaving just enough room for the album’s true star, Day, to shine. And he does, offering a warm suite of songs that could melt even the most cynical hearts.
Break Down the Heavy by Peter Day is available at peterdaymusic.com. Day will play a CD release show at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington on Saturday, December 21.