McCulloch's forceful, angst-filled yowl has given way to a mellower, more relaxed near-croon, recalling ballad-mood Dylan and a smoother Lee Hazlewood. Musically, he seems to favor the direct approach: The disc mostly features a lean, efficient, unfussy guitars-and-keyboards band, eschewing the solo-album model of including a half-dozen hip "guest stars" and second bananas. The songs all have wistfully engaging, 1960s-referencing melodies. "High Wires," for example, echoes the Velvet Underground (McCulloch considers the group a major inspiration) with its "Sister Ray"-flavored guitar hook and "some kinda love" chorus. The compassionately seductive "Baby Hold On," meanwhile, has a bass riff "borrowed" from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," plus some of the hazy/lazy summertime-afternoon ambience of Tommy James & the Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion."