Jon Auer's first full-length solo album was a long time coming. It is obviously a pet project, a concept album throughout, packed with good songwriting.
Like Lucinda Williams did with "Car Wheels," Auer spent years polishing this one to perfection, while impatient fans began to doubt it would ever be finished. Fortunately the result is not over-tweaked.
This disc equals the Posies two five-star albums (Dear 23 and Frosting) in terms of sheer quality, but the solo album is different, serving up a variety of tempos and arrangements that add up to a masterpiece of pop songcraft.
Auer's talents as singer, songwriter and producer are showcased here. If anything seems missing, it is his fiery guitar licks, which normally provide the power in the Posies pop.
The acoustic material works very well, and some of the sparest arrangements, "Wicked World" and "Song Noir," are among the best. Auer's new wife (Michelle Price of the Dear John Letters) shares songwriting credits on "Song Noir."
The song "Adios" starts with muffled piano chords that conjure up the atmosphere of a long-lost John Lennon track. "Funeral Song" sure sounds like it's about a death in the family, but in the end it seems to be another expression of grief at the Demise of a domestic partnership. It doesn't really matter - heartbreak and death always inspire great art.
The first 45 seconds of the stunning opener, "Six Feet Under," convinced me this album was worth the wait. At the line "love is blind to those who see" Auer's voice not only reaches effortless highs, but still has that certain indescribable richness in tone that prompted critics to compare the early Posies to the Hollies.
"Likes of You" sounds like it might work well as a Posies tune, with its quiet verse and expansive chorus. Its image of weeds growing in an untended yard recalls one of the best early Posies tunes, "Everyone Moves Away."
The theme of that earlier tune pervades this album. Kids grow up, parents grow old and die, spouses part, loss of love is inevitable, but Auer's voice delivers all this heartfelt sadness with a soothing beauty.