(Self-released, digital download)
When last we left Matt Pignatore in 2015, he was thrilling our indie-rock-lovin' ears with Suck Up All Your Guts, released under the pseudonym Blahvocado. The album was the first he'd made since moving to Vermont from New Jersey earlier that year. Pignatore has since settled into the Queen City. Though he doesn't perform much, he's insinuated himself into the local scene by booking music for Burlington's Skinny Pancake. You might have noticed that the waterfront crêperie's musical offerings have skewed more toward indie fare in recent months. That's why. One need only listen to Pignatore's own music to understand how much the man digs his Built to Spill and Pavement.
Much like Guts, Pignatore's latest, Go Get Hurt, pays overt homage to the jangly, melancholy stylings of Messrs. Malkmus and Martsch. On Guts, Pignatore achieved a rare balancing act, somehow embracing his influences without veering too far into sycophantic hero worship. Rather than lean on rote recitation, he injected enough personal style to make the oft-imitated formulas of those bands and their ilk seem fresh. Pignatore continues that progression on Hurt, building on the music he loves while drifting farther into his own creative headspace.
Pignatore moves at an unhurried pace. From the echoey strums of opener "Move" through album's end, he rarely hits the accelerator past mid-tempo. "Lake View" bobs along like a late-day pleasure cruise, with airy melodies that take fluttering turns over lilting guitar jangle. With its strutting acoustic riffs and downcast vocals, "Gold Park" owes a debt to Figure 8-era Elliott Smith. "Like a Loser" bears hissy whispers of Guided By Voices' lo-fi bent, not to mention their tendency toward sardonic lyricism.
The album especially shines in those moments when Pignatore's influences are more obscured — if not necessarily obscure. For example, in "Hold My Soul" he deploys intertwining vocal parts over a marching drumbeat and guitar riff that sounds like a sedated tUnE-yArDs cut. The hook on "Slugger" explodes out of an emo-tinged verse with arena-rock-style dual guitars. Album closer "Backseat" appears to borrow from Ryan Power's psychedelic troubadour days, right down to the meandering melody and sliding intonations.
If you're counting, that's two exceptional records from Blahvocado in as many tries. All Pignatore needs now is a band — and maybe a new moniker.
Go Get Hurt by Blahvocado is available at blahvocado.bandcamp.com.