On their 8th album Secret Place Baby Scream have taken some fairly common power pop influences and either by design or by accident they've managed to create something entirely unexpected. Most of that originality stems from Juan Pablo Mazzola's vocals, which occasionally resemble John Lennon at his most hushed but more often than not remind me of the Promise Ring's Davey von Bohlen (circa their moody Wood/Water album). There's a yearning fragility to his voice, a sense of impending heartbreak that colors every song, so even when the band stretches its muscles (like on the comparatively rockin' opener "The Last Call") there exists an appealingly odd melancholy to the proceedings. Guitars may jangle and buzz, a bit of Garth Hudson organ might flit in and out of the mix, but Mazzola anchors it all with that distinctive frailty.
Elsewhere, Mazzola toughens up a little on "Cold Weather Reggae", which slips in actual reggae without forsaking the mellow pop ambiance, and power chords pop up in "London Sun", but mostly this album is rich with delicately Lennon-esque gems like "Hit and Run" and "Eating My Face," songs of a singular mood that might go far deeper than a casual listen would suggest. The b-side of their "Hit and Run" single is a cover of a posthumously-released T. Rex demo, "20th Century Baby", and that choice (Marc Bolan, the elfin coke-ravaged man-child, stripped of all glam trappings and hippie optimism, playing it straight from the heart) seems an obvious key to Baby Scream's intentions on Secret Place.
Baby Scream at CD Baby