It’s been a long and winding road for Brooklyn singer-songwriter Syd. The Vermont-born tunesmith made quite a splash on the college touring circuit with his full-length debut Fault Lines, which drew frequent comparisons to work of breezy, sensitive dude-rocker Jack Johnson and wuss-pop confectioner John Mayer. But somewhere along the way, Syd had an epiphany. Following some serious soul-searching, he came to the conclusion that the rewards of life on the road hardly matched the immense effort and personal sacrifices required. He also realized that he didn’t like his own music anymore. That’s got to be a tough pill to swallow.
Confused but undeterred, Syd holed up in a Vermont barn to reinvent — and perhaps resurrect — his musical persona. The result: a sparkling pop nugget called The Way We Found It.
Produced by knob-twiddler extraordinaire Danny Weinkauf — whose work with artists such as They Might Be Giants and Fountains of Wayne has made a him sought-after commodity in pop circles — the disc is an immaculate collection of glittery pop-rock anchored by literate, wistful melancholia.
Album opener “All Time High” is a dramatic piano-rock ballad melodically reminiscent of The Webb Brothers’ 2000 indie classic Maroon. Brief and bittersweet, it’s a fitting introduction.
“On a Friday” follows with a guitar-driven blend of ’80s power-pop likely to satisfy the inner retro-rocker in all of us. The tune’s only real drawback is that it’s almost too catchy. The song has “summer anthem” written all over it. A word of warning: Repeat exposure could be borderline obnoxious.
The album’s supposed centerpiece is the next track, “Far Away.” A mid-tempo ballad filled with longing could easily fit on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” That’s all fine and dandy if you’re into it. But to these ears, the song feels like a remnant of Syd’s dark days as a Mayer acolyte. It’s about the only slip-up on the disc.
The next ditty, “Lady,” (LISTEN) picks up with irresistible guitar-pop not unlike Shake the Sheets-era Ted Leo and The Pharmacists. Following a brief acoustic guitar interlude, the next rocker, “Still Life,” is similarly engaging, as are the album’s remaining ballads, “You Said,” “Front Lines” and “It Was You.”
Syd frequently shares the stage with Vermont pop-troubadour Gregory Douglass. He also shares Douglass’ affinity for saccharine pop-hookery, which is on display throughout the disc. It’s no small wonder, then, that Syd’s cover of the Douglass-penned “Sail the Sea” is a standout on an album full of them.
Catch Syd Wednesday, March 26, at Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge with fellow pop songwriters Zac Clark, James Kinne and Tom Cadrin.