There's just something spectacularly retro and simultaneously forward-looking in the tunes on this new album from EZTV. Calling Out, out in a matter of days from Captured Tracks, is a set of glittering gems of pop-craft. If "Pretty Torn Up" sounds like Tim Finn leading Split Enz through a cover of The Byrds, that's not an indication of musical schizophrenia but a sign of tuneful artistry.
EZTV is the brain-child of Ezra Tenenbaum who's joined in his pursuit of pop bliss by drummer Michael Stasiak of Widowspeak along with engineer-turned-bassist Shane O'Connell. The 3-piece have mastered a sort of careful cultivation of the right influences. And, like very few acts can successfully do, they've managed to make this stuff sound fresh again. "Hard to Believe" marries a hint of The Nerves with a brief nod in the direction of The Soft Boys. But, you know what? That's just a lazy writer's way of trying to pin down why this song -- like most of what's on Calling Out -- works so spectacularly well.
"Blue Buzz" adds a dash of Big Star to things even if the vocals made me think of those magical Syd Barrett solo albums. While most of the cuts on this record are what you would want to call power pop, this one is a bit more like alt-country, or something. I highlight that small shift in style to highlight the strengths of this band.
"Trampoline" recalls the early stuff from The Posies before they turned the amps up. At moments like this on this record, the band also sounds like The Bongos in spots. They certainly have a similar sense of how to make pop music even if they are, clearly, not exactly the same in terms of their sound.
By the time we get to "There Goes My Girl" one can hear a trace of both Davies brothers in the gloriously weary melody -- think "Death of a Clown" but with a stronger hook. It's an odd comparison but EZTV are making music that bears favorable comparison to acts like the legendary Kinks. "Long Way to Go" makes me miss the glory days of stuff like Wire Train or The Plimsouls. EZTV are expanding on the classic pop of those earlier bands who got labelled new wave acts.
Calling Out is expertly performed and produced but it never once seems forced or stiff. One wonders how these guys didn't get more attention before now? What kind of world are we living in when music like this is released without much more fanfare? There's not a single dud on this record. Pluck out any tune from EZTV's Calling Out and put it in the middle of a mix and you'll see how great each individual cut is.
[Photo credits: Daniel Topete, top, and Pamela Garavano, bottom.]