We were first introduced to Scott Gagner as part of Town and Country, then through his solo effort under the name Cartographer. Both EPs made quite an impression back in 2008. Now Gagner is back with his debut full-length record, “Rhapsody In Blonde”, and no longer hiding behind the name Cartographer.
“Rhapsody In Blonde” begins with one of the most instantly likeable guitar riffs you’re bound to hear all year – a snappy little riff that reminds me of a beach party for some reason. Hand claps and harmonies decorate this power pop confection called “I Hate To Say” but, to be to fair, this sunny treat is not representative of the rest of the album. Most of the other tunes are considerably mellower, but that is not to say that they are boring by any means. “Speak and Spell” is a delightful mid-tempo treat with a clever melodic line from the Todd Rundgren songbook. “Laura No. 1” combines classic doo-wop chord progressions with modern power pop sounds – a unique ear worm. With the rugged “Take Two”, he channels Jason Falkner during his Grays days.
“Houdini” is another favorite of mine, showcasing Gagner’s remarkable talent for phrasing – people who can sing, “How can you realistically expect to win – it only took one punch to do Houdini in” with such finesse don’t come along every day. Folks who want to hear the coffeehouse side of Gagner will enjoy the gentle finger-picking on “Right Before My Eyes” and his downshifted version of the Guns N’ Roses hit “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
With exception of “Golden Mean”, a murky six minutes to wade through, there really isn’t a bad tune in the bunch, and if it didn’t grab you on the first spin, chances are it will on the second. Gagner stands a cut above the rest thanks to an abundance of clever songwriting, with an attention to detail that should be the envy of any inspiring musician.
iPod-worthy tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 14
For more on Scott Gagner – Official site
And… Check out the video for “I Hate To Say”