Burlington's soulful prince of indie-rock, Ryan Power, appeared on the scene as if out of nowhere -- a white knight with an impeccable ear for melody. A couple of years ago, he offered up a lovely, if short, 3-inch CD on Icebox Records. Lately he's been mixing and producing local bands, such as jazzy rockers Transit and, most recently, The Cush. Now he's got a full-length disc of his own. Featuring nine impeccably recorded, gently romantic numbers, Loventropy is one of the most rewarding albums I've heard this year.
There are hints of other artists in Power's songcraft, particularly that of the late Jeff Buckley. Power's compositions bear something in common with Buckley's limited post-Grace output, namely an unflinching intimacy and a penchant for unconventional chord progressions. Still, his work is unique, perhaps too much so for those accustomed to less adventurous singer-songwriters.
The languid bossa nova of opener "Interrogation" is a sultry curiosity, filled with inventive phrasing and wistful imagery. Power's lyrics provide an eloquent, free-associative glimpse into the artist's inner world: "In my former life I thought I said I wouldn't do this again / Oh, no -- I guess I didn't listen to myself, 'cause here I am making mistakes," he softly croons. Drummer Alissa Helland keeps a steady backbeat, eschewing flashy fills, while bassist Jason Pepe colors the empty spaces with thoughtful countermelodies.
"(Shell) Angelbreath" kicks off with a meditative piano, before blossoming into a futuristic lounge number replete with angelic vocal harmonies and sub-orbital synth pads. "Angel that smokes two packs a day then flies away," Power sings over the narcotic waltz. "Shieldtoshieldtoshield" boasts symmetrical acoustic guitar, augmented by exquisite violin and viola lines courtesy of Deep Soda's Alan Cieli. A mix of Eastern modality and Bacharach-esque melody, the track is a slow-motion stunner.
"Don't Come Cryin' to Me" is a quiet condemnation of an ex-friend or lover, with a jazzy vocal that floats lazily over the minimal arrangement. Beach Boys-esque harmonies appear in the bridge, as a slide guitar provides a mournful footnote.
The rest of the record is just as beautiful. Power is incredibly versatile, capable of blending genres like a master painter might mix his oils. From hushed lullabies to avant-garde arias, Loventropy bursts with an uncommon creativity.