A Review by Alan Haber
(Win an autographed copy by filling out the form below)
On this taster for his upcoming album, provisionally titled Crayons and Angels, Brandon Schott again refines and expands on themes he has explored on previous releases, most notably last December’s glorious A/B EP, a split seven-incher anchored by two of his songs (including the wonderful “Henry,” which will appear on the album) and two from his friend and musical compatriot, Andy Reed, who mixed two of the songs here and mastered the EP.
One of the songs on the A/B EP was entitled “Verdugo Park (Part Two).” A beautiful mix of baroque and chamber balladry, sweet psychedelia, and melodic pop conventions, the song introduced its various elements carefully and built to a lovely crescendo with swirling backing vocals, filling the sound stage with warmth and begging the question, “Is there a ‘Verdugo Park (Part One)'”?
The song “Verdugo Park,” now a reality and the first of three songs here, begins innocently enough with the sound of children playing and living life that collides with a quick cacophony cut off in short order by a lively keyboard and the opening lines, “Verdugo Park is in our backyard, under a clear blue day.” While the weight of a down day may hang in the balance, in Verdugo Park one can find a hideaway where trouble and problems and all of that stuff are secondary to light and love. “Love will lead the way,” Brandon sings on top of a delectable mix of Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson-esque melody and inspiration.
Two additional songs, neither of which will be on Crayons and Angels, are sterling examples of the power of Schott’s craft. The lightly-psychedelic instrumental “Lapiz Lazuli,” incorporating a healthy dose of inspiration from the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” pairs aural surprises coming from the left and right with a lovely melody realized by three-dimensional background vocals. The track surprises and delights as it drives forward, capturing the listener’s imagination. There is almost an album’s worth of ideas in this transcendent creation, and they’re all alive. Lapiz, or Lapis, Lazuli is a semiprecious stone that is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “probably the sapphire of the ancients.” Really, so like this song.
Closing with Robert and Richard Sherman’s “Castaway” is a lovely idea, executed with care and compassion. The song, from Disney’s 1962 film In Search of the Castaways, was originally sung by actress Hayley Mills as a slow ballad, anchored by Mills’ hopeful vocal, acoustic guitar, light orchestration, and a decidedly Randy Newman-esque arrangement (before there was such a thing). Schott’s version takes the same tempo but adds a lovely xylophone sound to the original orchestration. His emotional vocal draws the listener in and makes quite an imprint in only a minute and 38 seconds. This is a brave choice for a cover that should be thought of as the definitive version of one of the greatest songs produced by one of our greatest songwriting duos.
The cover art for this EP (seen above) sports a cartoon illustration of a trio of homing pigeons seemingly connected by just one pair of legs. Attached to the ankle of the pigeon in the foreground is a tag that quite rightly says and points to “Home.” That third pigeon, his head cocked to his left side, knows the score: Brandon Schott has hit it out of the park, “it” being another way of describing the realization of so much talent and heart emanating from a single soul.
That the Verdugo Park EP should be a part of your core pop music collection is a truth that is assured. Travel here to order. Alternatively, you can win a copy by filling out the following form. Entries must be received by midnight ET (the witching hour) on October 31. Only one entry per person. Good luck!