(Asaurus Records, CD)
Burlington's indie-pop guru < ahref="http://www.myspace.com/colinclary">Colin Claryis a reliable lo-fi deliveryman whose releases range from fuzzed-out rock to acoustic ballads. Whether in a band or on his own, Clary typically focuses on themes of friendship and romance in this northern burg. Since the '90s, his musical efforts have offered plenty of insight into his hopes, dreams and what it's like to wear a sweater year-round.
Clary's latest batch of tunes is for Detroit, Michigan-based CD-R label Asaurus Records. Boasting darling handmade packaging -- the disc comes ensconced in a collared shirt and fuzzy sweater with an official Colin Clary button affixed to the front -- the album is a fine addition to the songwriter's growing catalogue.
Opener "Of the Stars," features hazy organ, acoustic guitar and what sounds like a toy xylophone. "I wanna read her pages and pages and pages of songs," Colin sings to an unnamed love interest. "She could make hot water out of tea / And her second biggest fan out of me," he continues, as chiming electric guitars mark the song's chorus.
"The Engine Light's Always On" is a saccharine acoustic number in which Clary muses about yet another gal. Although the sounds are sugary, he invests the tune with clever turns of phrase. "Cheryl, I still can't cook / But can I use your piano when I'm doing my work? / A cute boy once wrote you a song / He's not the only one," Clary croons. His staggered delivery and subdued intonation come across like a starry-eyed cross between Elvis Costello and Elliot Smith.
The adorable "Hagiography" features a handmade dance beat and retro synths, while the reflective "Church/Mosque" sounds like Sunflower-era Beach Boys. "Is that a church or mosque? / Weathervane or cross? / The clouds are splitting open for the sun," Clary softly sings. His ecumenical inquiry is resolved with the subsequent line: "It doesn't really matter what it is / It's religious and pretty."
Many of the tunes on Sweater Weather are about Clary's close pals. Longtime scenesters may have difficulty listening objectively; I found myself wondering how songs such as "The Silent Film & the Littlest Smitten" or "FuckingRightHandMan.com" would sound to someone unfamiliar with B-town. Yet it's this very hominess that makes Clary's work so endearing. It's obvious his friends mean a great deal to him, and the genial music on Sweater Weather represents them well.