When you hear that a classically trained guitar player from a music school is making a pop album, your expectations are probably like mine. But as skilled a guitarist as Jeff Litman might be, Postscript rarely features his playing as the focal point. It’s Litman’s skills as a songwriter, vocalist and arranger that are highlighted, and wisely so. Frankly, this debut offering floored me.
Litman has an immediately likable voice, and proves throughout the album that he’s as dynamic a singer on broad choruses as he is on more stripped-down and nakedly exposed vocals like “It Wasn’t Me”; he’s able to jump around the scales effortlessly and comfortably. The album’s crystal clear production (courtesy Litman and drummer/utility infielder Andy Thompson) really lets everything shine from subtle background vocals to string arrangements…and just as importantly, Litman’s words. Sure, these are love won / love lost songs, most songs are, but they are fresh and bright, one after another. (Okay…maybe the riff that opens “Let You Go” is a kissing cousin to “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates, but you get my point).
“Anna” and “Complicate” make a very strong 1-2 punch to open the album, both songs about being with the wrong person at the wrong time. But Litman can just as easily bury a bitter shot within a bright melody (“Everything You’re Not”) as he can pine away on a beautiful ballad (e.g. “Wife” and the title track). And the seamless harmonies between Litman and Kelly Jones on “Maine” couldn’t be tighter if they were conjoined twins; the country-ish track chugs along like a perkier version of “Winter Valley Song” by Fountains of Wayne.
Other sound-alike touch points? First and foremost Mike Viola, and I mean that as a strong compliment; Viola is one of the best in the business. I also thought of contemporaries like Frank Bango and Jim Boggia as well as the more well-known predecessors McCartney, Squeeze and (more as solo artists than as a band) Jellyfish. These artists, like Litman, feature more complex arrangements than what I would consider everyday power pop music, yet are much more vibrant than the definition that “singer-songwriter” tends to conjure up.
Postscript is brimming with great songs and is certain to make my Best-of-2009 list at year’s end.
Visit Jeff’s homepage here.
You can also hear sound clips and/or purchase Postscript at CD Baby.
A live version of “Maine” (with links to other videos in the right column)