By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Houston native and Dallas resident Travis Hopper has all the right intentions and influences on this sparse and sloppy alt-country debut. All the Lights features 10 takes on the standard theme of boy loses girl, boy drinks, boy ends up feeling worse. While a bit too earnest in spots, Hopper's songs offer the same kind of "lovable loser" narratives that make similar fare from Paul Westerberg and Ryan Adams so endearing to all the folks who have trouble getting laid.
Songs such as "I'd Like to Have You Here (If You Want to Stay)" and "I Can't Take Being Without You" would sound hopelessly sappy if not for the simplistically catchy backdrops provided by a solid band that includes producer Salim Nourallah, whose bass, along with Jason Garner's drumming, adds weight to songs that only skim the surface of real regret.
Hopper is more into melody than deep introspection. His songs revel in their inherent hooks as Hopper tells his tales with a "Just the facts, ma'am" approach. In "Saturday Night Christmas Lights," he sings, "I've been watching the way you move/When you walk in through the door, I've been watching you." Everyone can relate to such an observation--in fact it's downright banal, and that is what separates him from the likes of Westerberg and Adams.
Those are lofty standards, however, and Hooper scores points for aiming high. His debut serves notice of a songwriter whose gift for melody needs only to find equal footing with a more pensive view of the emotional abyss. Should that happen, the local bar better make certain the beer is in adequate supply.