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Jonathan Bates' claim that his major-label debut was "lovingly recorded in a bedroom" is slightly misleading: With his solo career in a fledgling state, Bates caught the attention of Tony Berg, an A&R executive who signed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Beck. Soon after, the magic of studio-enhanced remastering transformed his casual, homemade EP/demo into something densely layered and commercially polished. Running the gamut from sorrow to agony in less than 30 minutes, Bates has written a half-dozen accessible, minor-chord-driven pop songs that lament everything from the mass media ("Fashionably Uninvited") to fractured singer-songwriter delirium ("Beautiful Day"). Consider it all a teasing hors d'oeuvre at an abbreviated feast. It tastes pretty good but leaves you unsatisfied and still hungry.

Bates can turn a corrosive sing-along into something that transcends mere melancholy ("No More Options"), then tear the Band-Aid from an open gash in one fell swoop. When he sings "I'd honestly slam my hand in a car door just to shut you up" ("And Repeat"), you can't help but smile and want to call his bluff.

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Matthew Africa

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