(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Despite what the prevailing youth culture might have you believe, there's something to be said for getting older. The trick is to do so with equal measures of grace, humility and wisdom — and, in the case of the Sweet Remains, borderline-obnoxious sunny optimism.
To refresh your perhaps fading memory — that part of aging still sucks, I'm afraid — the Sweet Remains are composed of three songwriters: Rich Price, Greg Naughton and Brian Chartrand. All of them have achieved varying levels of musical success. The most notable of these is Burlington's Price, who flirted with the mainstream in the early 2000s. With his sweet, easy croon and equally sweet, breezy melodies, the Middlebury College grad emerged as something of a poor man's David Grey, inking a two-album deal with Geffen Records and landing a tune on the Shrek 2 soundtrack ... just before the music biz imploded. Price became a casualty of the industry organ grinder.
His current bandmates have similar "what if?" stories. But owing to age and experience, the three songwriters have found a means of penning their own redemptive second act, the latest chapter being a new Sweet Remains record, Night Songs.
As they've aged and priorities have shifted, each has traded in the tour van for a minivan — Price, who is expecting twins soon (more boys; he already has three, he told a FlynnSpace concert crowd last month), may need to upgrade yet again. Yet collectively, the three have managed to stay in the game, and on their own terms. Merging individual fan bases, the Sweet Remains hit on a model that allows them to live "normal" adult lives and still tour and make records whenever the mood strikes. If Night Songs is any indication, that feels damn good.
As on their first two records, the Sweet Remains present a brand of airy folk-pop that is irrepressibly bright. These are well-rounded, grown-up and emotionally balanced tunes that suggest being a starving artist might be overrated. Granted, there's nothing in the groovy torch song "Love the Way," the reggae-lite bounce of "Stop the Night II" or the contemplative title track that could remotely pass for an edge. Even heartsick songs such as "On My Own" and "Freedom" feel more like fuzzy, daily affirmations than wounded laments. But it's hard to listen to a song such as "Can't Love You Any More" and not be won over by the genuine, sentimental charm. BTW, that's not a breakup song. The opening line is "I just can't love you any more ... than I do, honey." Is someone cutting onions in here?
And that sense of wistful earnestness pervades on Night Songs — aided by a cadre of talented Vermont guest musicians, including Sean Preece, Brett Lanier and members of the Grift, among others. Because here's the other thing about getting older: You start to care less about being cool and hip and more about making sure every little thing is gonna be all right for those you love. That's a notion ably and tenderly reflected in the Sweet Remains' latest.
Night Songs by the Sweet Remains is available at iTunes.