Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Album Review: Jay Gonzalez - Back to the Hive

Jay Gonzalez
Back to the Hive
**** out of *****

During the pandemic multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez would host stripped down live shows where he took requests with the song choices arriving from a list of under-appreciated 70's pop tunes. Tracks by Shuggie Otis, Carole King and The Neon Philharmonic could all be requested and those choices help point to where Gonzalez was going with his newest solo album Back to the Hive

That mid 70's radio friendly pop appeal is all over Back to the Hive as the sweet sounds color Gonzalez's second proper solo album. Gorgeous piano work and vocal ooh's form the brief instrumental opener "Sunspot" setting the bright shiny tone as fun romps like "Deep Sea Diver" also hit that light natural floating vibe. 

Gonzalez passion for that classic Beatles sound of clear catchy pop love is most evident on a pair of tracks. "Trampoline" is a pumping number that brings a calliope circus feeling into soothing relationship lyrics before drifting into a psychedelic swoon. "(I Wanna) Hold You" is the stand out on a solid record as it brings in a great guitar solo after lyrics which catch up on all aspects of the title phrase; at just over two minutes it reminds of the great Buddy Holly in the way it twists the simple pop formula into a higher art form.

The acoustic heartbreak/love song triumph "You Make It Hard (To Be Unhappy)" and the sweet friendship ode "Need You Round" are both dynamite. The languid "Never Felt Bad (About Feeling Good)" with its organ work, bubbling bass and fuzzy guitar is the lyrical heart of the album as smiles vibrate from these hook laden tracks. 

The record wraps up with a few more brief instrumentals and a Gonzalez tribute to Robin Gibb "Crying Through The Wall" which goes bigger, with less success than than the tight pop tracks leading up it. That said, Back to the Hive is a peach of a solo record from the Drive-By Truckers member as Gonzalez proves you can still create alluring pop rock tracks in the tried and true fashion.  

Support the artist, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below and peep some video:

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