Impeccable melodies, a tenor-baritone coo, radio warmth: The Durham bandleader Brett Harris demonstrated a talent for heartfelt pop that recalls Burt Bacharach and Brill Building on his 2010 debut, Man of Few Words. Chris Stamey helped produce and mix that record, and, as a testament to Harris’ finesse, the two apparently hit it off; Harris wound up backing Stamey’s reformed dBs on tour, as well as joining Stamey in his ensemble re-creation of Big Star.
Anxious to get back to his solo career, Harris returned to the studio this year to record his second album, Up in the Air, scheduled for release in 2015. Mr. Sunshinefour songs of perfect foreshadowing, split between originals and a live Alex Chilton takemight have you eying the calendar early.
The reverb-drenched, psychedelic-laced title track suggests Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything?, though the upper-register vocals of “Out of the Blue” hint at the Big Star in Harris’ blood. The song itself, though, turns toward laconic blues-folk, like early Fleetwood Mac making room for an audacious art-rock break. That’s how far Harris can reach.
Still, these are mere appetizers for “When You Get the Chance,” a plaintive mea culpa driven by acoustic guitar and sonorous organ. Harris explains that he’s circled the block so many times “the neighbors must think I’m an old forgetful fool,” winning with charmingly old-fashioned earnestness. Harris makes his better-late-than-never appeal to his forgotten love, remembering how “time stood still when you and I would dance.” Like the entire album, it’s a keenly pitched sentiment that’s not pushy but still persuasive. Here’s hoping Up in the Air doesn’t stay that way long.