Album Reviews

Jay Gonzalez – Mess of Happiness (Middle Brow)




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Jay Gonzalez is the keyboardist for Drive-By Truckers but his solo effort offers a completely different musical perspective. So if you approach this openly and have an appreciation for well-constructed, catchy pop tunes, you’re in great shape. There are a few sharp edges along the way to add potency but, for the most part, these are gorgeously-arranged, beautifully melodic tunes rendered by multi-instrumentalist Gonzalez. According to Gonzalez, his inspiration is drawn from Paul McCartney’s “expansive vocal harmonies, multi-song suites, and bittersweet chord progressions. But a bit rawer.”

Gonzalez is an excellent translator. As you listen, you can’t help but hearken back to the hooks of great pop records—be it Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, the Beach Boys or the Fab Four. While Gonzalez has masterful musical sensibilities, by his own admission, his lyrics and vocals are a work-in-progress. Nonetheless, his humorous takes on tracks such as “Phil’s Fro” (Phil Spector) and “Punch of Love” indicate that he’ll improve over time. In the meantime, he’s making memorable, arresting power pop music like “Other Side” and “Luisa.” His melodies will linger in your head for days.

– Jim Hynes

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