More Magnificent Pop

Spark (Universal)
Peter Searcy

By Kevin Gibson

Sometimes I run into Peter Searcy at the grocery store or at a restaurant. We exchange pleasantries and occasionally I'll ask him about what he's working on musically. He is a genuinely nice guy and always happy to share musical updates and chat for a minute or two.

I find, however, that I often forget during those moments what a magnificent pop songwriter he is.

His latest album, Spark, is a complete collection of meticulously crafted pop gems, none of which hit you in the head as being a can't-miss commercial radio hit, but any of which you could hear on commercial radio and not wonder why. And I mean that in a good way, not as faint praise. (I typically avoid commercial radio like disease or Rosie O'Donnell, but Searcy's songs deserve to reach a wide audience simply because of quality.)

There are lush arrangements and sincere lyrics all over Spark, along with some soaring, delicious melodies that absolutely melt in your mouth. And once again I have to stop and shake my head and say, "The guy I saw last week at Valu Market in jeans and a sweatshirt did this?"

"I Believe" is just one of those songs that is catchy enough and real enough that, well, you can build an album around it. And it isn't necessarily the best song on this disc. "The Someday Song" comes on with a similar understated power and a hook that tickles your emotions. Then the dark piano-based "Bird Song" brings forth images of alienation and loss; it's just a heart-wrenching rock ballad that has the ability to whisk you away with the protagonist if you let it.

And that's traveling just five songs into the disc.

"Truth Rises" maintains the pace and while it may be a bit long, the solo at about 4 comes on like a Radiohead Light kind of controlled jam. This and one final chorus lead us into the gentle, acoustic-guitar-and-vocal "Don't Let a Day Go By." The uplifting message is a bit like a Hallmark card and the whistle solo seems out of place, but it works well enough.

"In the Morning" is a vivid story about two people who suffer a strange discomfort the morning after they seemingly bond, then sleep together. It culminates in a wall of instrumentation and vocals, which help illustrate the rising emotion in the narrator.

The odd cadence of "Overcome and Underwhelmed" (which is vaguely reminiscent of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows") gives way to the emotional "Sing Like It's the Last Time," and the album wraps up with a full-band treatment of "Don't Let a Day Go By" (sans whistle solo) that squeezes in a little pedal steel and lives on a piano melody and light percussion.

Spark is strong and includes some of Searcy's best work. It's hard to say it is his overall best album, because all of his albums are solid and have staying power. Searcy fans, if you don't have this one already, it's time to buy it. If this thing gains any traction - and rest assured he'll be out on the road promoting it - he's bound to pick up a few new fans along the way.

Next time I see him at the grocery store, I'll have to remember to tell him that.

You can always find Searcy at www.petersearcy.net.