(Ten Pin, CD)
Burlington-area pop singer-songwriter Zac Clark seems destined for big things. Blessed with a laser-sharp ear for melody and considerable keyboard chops, it's easy to imagine him becoming a national name. His latest EP, Ellipsis, follows up his full-length debut, Faking Amnesia. In between releases, the young musician honed his skills through regional performances. Judging from his current offering, it was time well spent.
Those with an aversion to sweet-toothed tunes might want to sit this one out. Fans of Ben Folds, Elvis Costello and "The O.C.," on the other hand, will find plenty to enjoy. Expertly recorded and mixed by Mike Poorman of Burlington's Strangeways Studios, Ellipsis is packed with hooks and heart-on-sleeve poetics.
The disc kicks off with "On My Way," a slinky number featuring electric piano, handclaps and a muscular bass line. Clark makes the most of the stripped-down arrangement by emphasizing his boyish vocals. "I just want to get stuck in your head and be the kind of melody you can't shake," he sings in the opening verse. Done and done.
Clark is a keen balladeer, as "The Way It Sounds When No One's Listening," ably showcases. The track features only piano and Clark's emotional tenor, which provide more than enough melodic material. "This is malfunction, this is failure to reciprocate / The feelings manufactured by machines / Can you see through them? / Their illusions are obscuring every scene," Clark sings plaintively.
"Amelia" is the catchiest song on the disc. It also features the most bells and whistles, from drum- machine breakdowns to gurgling synth tones. Such sonic add-ons will likely sound dated within a year, but for now, it works.
The EP wraps up with "Stay," a piano meditation filled with wistful romantic musings. Youthful Clark is incredibly good at this kind of thing, but I wonder how much of it comes from personal experience. Either way, it's a lovely cut.
If Clark continues to explore the big'ol world beyond Burlington, he'll no doubt become successful. Hopefully this won't change his approach to song craft, which is refreshingly unpretentious. Catch him at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Thursday, August 17, with The Urgency, Waiting for a Miracle and Oh So Insidious.