Chris Stamey's second full-length solo album -- and the only album in his entire decades-long career to be released on a major label -- is the most uncomplicated and genuinely poppy album of his career, even including the first two dB's albums. The opening track, "Cara Lee," with its girl's name title and sweetly repetitive guitar hook and chorus, is almost as if Stamey is saying "OK, see? I can
do songs like this. I just choose not to." Point made, the rest of the album subtly transforms that brand of jangly guitar pop into interesting, new shapes. Stamey's songwriting is exceptional -- the gloriously romantic "From the Word Go" is one of Stamey's finest songs, and the new version of Instant Excitement's winsome "When We're Alone" smokes the original -- and the simple production (mostly by Stamey, with a couple of tracks produced by Scott Litt) avoids the generic late-'80s tropes that mar even some of the better albums of the era. Highlights include the stark "The Seduction," a halting, angular ballad played very simply with Stamey's acoustic guitar and Jane Scarpatoni's cello, and the dreamy, almost psychedelic "27 Years in a Single Day."