Orchestral pop, West Coast vibes, rich arrangements and sunny-side up melodies – lovely stuff.
Bathed in the warm glow of the sun and soaking up the sounds of the Beach Boys and Phil Spector, Brent Windler’s debut solo record, ‘New Morning Howl’, is a contender for the album of the summer – although it only just made the cut, arriving in late August.
The Kansas City singer-songwriter and guitarist, who also performs with the No Depression /alt-country-influenced band, Sons of Great Dane, has created a lush and layered orch-pop album with occasional hints of Americana – opening song, ‘Around The Bend’, is a lovely piece of jangly, Fountains of Wayne-style power-pop, with heavenly harmonies. Jason Falkner also comes to mind.
At almost six minutes long, ‘My Josephine (Wildwood Flowers Are Where You Roam)’ is a Brian Wilson-esque, widescreen epic that’s symphonic and dream-like, while the title track, with its sweeping strings, uplifting chorus, bouncy melody and twangy guitar, is pure ‘Pet Sounds.’
For the spectral and folky ‘Spanish Jasmine’ – a perfect song to listen to as summer turns to autumn – Windler sounds like Simon & Garfunkel – with synths. Atmospheric and cinematic instrumental, ‘Can You Sleep Tonight Under Lightning Bug Skies’, breaks up the album halfway through, before we’re firmly back in swooning pop territory, with ‘The Glitter and The Roar’, which features some great Easy Listening horns.
Curtain closer, ‘In My Daze’ owes more to the Beatles than the Beach Boys – a big, psych-tinged anthem, with piano, slide guitar and massed harmonies, that starts like ‘Dear Prudence’ then heads skywards before coming back to Earth. “Remember be here now?” asks Windler – we assume he’s not referring to Oasis’s overblown, 1997 cocaine-addled opus, although to be fair, he could well be. In the chorus, he declares: “Goddamn, it’s a beautiful day.”
‘New Morning Howl’ is a welcome alternative to a lot of the angst-ridden, dark, post-pandemic albums that have emerged recently – in these uncertain and worrying times, it offers some much-needed good vibrations.