The ambitions of young-and-wild singer-songwriters can be a blessing and a curse. Unwilling or unable to sort through and self-edit the jumble of disjointed ideas in their heads, plenty of otherwise solid songsters—Conor Oberst and Beck, for starters—have obscured inventive tunes and true talent by turning their debuts into a hodgepodge of messy experimentation. Though Escape From Plaza-Midwood is the first full-length from 29-year-old Charlotte bandleader Jon Lindsay, it's hardly his first foray into music, which is apparent in the kaleidoscopic LP's remarkable cohesiveness.
A songwriter since age 3, Lindsay fronted power pop units Carlisle, The Young Sons and The Catch Fire and has performed or recorded with neo-soul crooner Benji Hughes, indie folk singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins and former bandmate Justin Williams' vintage pop project Twelve Thousand Armies. The shimmering, dreamy tunes on last year's self-released solo EP, Magic Winter & The Dirty South, hinted at Lindsay's savvy craft. But on Plaza-Midwood, Lindsay finally folds those myriad experiences into a sprawling opus of pop-rock splendor.
Other than the lush orchestration, rich textures and offbeat lyrical fragments, few threads tie these 15 eclectic tracks together. "Indie Prince Paul" is a Hughes-style, soul-pop number drenched in organ and synths, while Beach Boys-inspired harmonies, sputtering drumbeats, swinging horns and soaring solos splash the record elsewhere. "If I could rewind, I would storm your castle/ I would Bernie Makeoff with your heart today," Lindsay offers during the stream-of consciousness ramble that accompanies the nonchalant, string-abetted jangle of "These Are The End Times." It's clear that Lindsay is having a blast on this record, though never at the expense of the song.
To wit, it's not all smiles and winking lyricism. On the frenetic power pop anthem "My Blue Angels," Lindsay contemplates choosing the church of rock 'n' roll—complete with archangel Randy Rhoads—rather than following in the footsteps of his preacher father. The jazzy, piano-led ballad "I Take Care Of You Now" has a tender core of devotion amid its down-and-out love story.
Still, any record with mentions of Kato Kaelin, hoverboards, and a half-robot, half-cop girlfriend (all during one track, "Futuretown," mind you) will rightfully get pegged as quirky. But where in lesser hands Plaza-Midwood would come off as a mishmash of half-baked ideas, Lindsay's approach makes this diverse pop collection mesh.