Good songwriting never goes out of style, even when style itself can become dated. That's a point lost on many singer/songwriters, who think adding a little sob here and a little regret there instantly makes them bona-fide artistes. Portland's Sean Croghan, who has fronted such obscure Pacific Northwest bands as Crackerbash and Jr. High, neatly avoids this trap on From Burnt Orange to Midnight Blue. Comfortably lodged between Elvis Costello and Elliot Smith, Croghan doesn't write songs as much as craft voluptuous atmospheres.
"Why do I dedicate so much of my time to people who don't care if I live or die?" Croghan asks on the opening "Gweneveire," a somber, piano-driven number that tickles like falling rain on teary cheeks. While most of the tracks on this nine-song effort fall into the slow, hazy side, Croghan offers bursts of untainted indie rock on "It's Gonna Be Alright," powered by a soaring chorus and mounting drum lines, and "Cupid's Credit Card," where a distorted, off-kilter guitar chord winds its way through the song the way the noise of a garage band floats through a suburban cul-de-sac.
"Friday's Face in Sunday's Suit" serves as a lazy, hazy, slow jam studded with keyboards that could double as the backdrop in a melodramatic movie moment. The closing "Otis Tolstoy" brings a '50s element with Wurlitzer whirls and Croghan's piercing squeals toward song's end that aim straight into the heart and soul of doo-wop. This last tune, like much of From Burnt Orange to Midnight Blue, gives a warm and fuzzy feeling, kind of like putting on underwear straight from the dryer.
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