Eric Contractor is a true original. The tags on his album are so plentiful, it sounds like a what's what of arty popular music, but it is not inaccurate. "Baroque pop" is an obvious claim, but his own "bel-canto art-rock" is better. How about this: imagine 1980's band the Associates Billy Mackenzie singing Broadway tunes arranged by Burt Bucharah… ? Whatever you call it, it is really special stuff.
On Contractor's debut album, Night Escape, New York's own stakes his claim to a section of the pop soundscape. A lush, deeply romantic dream world of doom Strings and drums and a mood unvaryingly dark, very like the color of the album sleve above. With "Prince Of The Shadows", Eric uses a mandolin to pull the texture deeper into the lyricism. "We can grow into impossible flowers into concrete" he says wandering the lonely streets of Manhattan. In "Waiting For The Night", he channels the Smith almost by Osmosis, the "lalalalaaaa" in the chorus sound more like Morrissey than Morrissey does.
Still, I wish he would include some bass, "Waiting For The Magic" is begging for some volume on that electric guitar, he should be forced to sing over the top.The truth is Contractor has a wonderful sense of restraint at odds with his sounds: it is as if he shys away from the biggest gestures, the operatic mode swirls around him but he allows the songs to make the point for him. Not quite right for mainstream USA, Europe would worship him.
Don't let these caveats bother you too ,uch. Nightwatch is otherwise perfect. "Starlight Mile" approaches the song from a folk angle but it veers into a pop serenade. I dare you to find fault with it. you can't. Even the background vocals are dreamy and beautiful. All 11 songs are gems, all perfect. It is an amazing achievement and, released April 2011, is immediately one of the best albums of the year.
Eric plays around town and if I hear of any concerts I will tell you. Indeed I will see you there.
Night Escape Grade: A
Night Escape is available on spotify and also here is a link as well as a link to his webpage: