Can being compared to a mid-80s trailing-edge-of-new-wave poster boy be a good thing? Is heartfelt, keyboard-driven pop coming back around? Are we once again ready to hear those drumbeats with the little triangle clinks mixed in? Am I showing my age?
This record is not some retro rehash, though - Tym De Santo writes heart-on-the-sleeve pop songs that transcend any particular era. The seven tunes showcased on Over Again, his solo debut (plus a bonus number we’ll get to later), are brim-full of catchy choruses and stellar harmonies.
De Santo is no stranger to the studio, boasting three previous releases with full-band lineups. After going solo in 2002 he laid the groundwork for Over Again by exposing the new tunes both live and online and enlisted the talents of multi-instrumentalist Nathan McMillen for the album. McMillen’s piano is the central instrument throughout Over Again, melding disparate elements of Bruce Hornsby and the subdued side of Ben Folds in his accomplished and expressive playing. “Flowers in December” in particular spotlights the piano, allowing the song to shine despite a slightly syrupy lyric.
“The Way It Is” transports us back to 1984, with its Spandau Ballet-like vocal opening and programmed drums. The chorus opens up into an emotive, reflective refrain, reminiscent of vintage Howard Jones (you know, the guy on all those “Best of the ‘80s” records ... man, I’m feeling old). It’s a fine tune, to boot.
De Santo’s vocals here are emotional and moving without overreaching, a good match for the record’s lyrical content and arrangements. The title track’s spare and gorgeous musical foundation supports gossamer harmony vocals on the chorus, the understated kind capable of sending shivers down the spine. A more matter-of-fact delivery on “Wanna Go On With You” speaks of balancing past dreams with the realities of the present, with inspirational results. Percolating bass and drums highlight this tune, as well as “Run On,” which may be the best (and maybe only) approximation of a Joe Jackson/Coldplay collaboration I’ve ever heard.
The production on Over Again is superb, clean and professional, excepting a lower-fi, live-ish “bonus” track (“The Starbucks Song”) that bills itself as a Johnny Cash tribute and extols the virtues of caffeine addiction.
This disc and other Tym De Santo releases are currently available at cdbaby.com and garageband.com.
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