Jeff Larson and Smash Palace

Jeff Larson “Close Circle”

Like an old friend visiting, Jeff Larson’s new album is another comforting pop tonic. Larson’s regular crew include Jeff Pevar (CPR, Crosby, Stills & Nash), Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell (America) and Jeffrey Foskett (Beach Boys). The opener “Rescue” is a pensive plea about aging and hope, sung with an earnest and simple guitar strum. “Following The Echoes” is a bit closer to that Eagles/America light rock sound. The layered vocal chorus of “Every Hour On the Hour” is a real treat with added backing vocals from Jeddrah Leiterding.

My favorite song is “Rain Soaked Cloud,” about a broken relationship with a great instrumental break here by Jeff Pevar. Larson tends to get so mellow on “Even When The Rains Come” or “Goodbye Ocean Street Beaches” that I tend to drift off, but we pick up the pace with “How Long Running.” Often the love of people and places is the theme, like on “Arizona” and “The Lay Of The Land.” With his “close circle” of friends Jeff invites us into his comfort zone. And its a nice place to be.

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Smash Palace “Extended Play” EP

New Jersey natives Smash Palace are back with an EP  that’s a perfect summertime soundtrack, chock full of guitar themes and catchy hooks. It’s notable that along with the Butler brothers is Fran Smith Jr. (bass) and Dave Uosikkinen (drums). And this 5-song set stands alongside their best work.

We start out with “Isn’t It Just Like Me” a strong jangling rocker in the mold of Tom Petty, with the self loathing lyric “Isn’t it just like me to cause all this pain and misery.”  Next, “Walk Alone” is an aching reflection of a lost love, layered with so many wonderful Rickenbackers in the chorus — it’s just amazingly tight. Another highlight is “Hold On” with its steady beat and statement of faith, to “hold on to what you believe in.” Really each track is great here and its one of the best EPs of the year, you’ll want to listen to it “Again and Again.” Highly recommended (of course)!