The cover of Crushed Stars' new record, In the Bright Rain, shows a faded photograph through a water-soaked lens. The silhouette of a couple walking hand-in-hand leads to a brighter sky ahead, indicating the storm has passed. It's a good first impression of the record without actually hearing it. Longtime fans of Crushed Stars, a moniker used by Todd Gautreau, know his previous six albums have been steeped in melancholy, downtrodden tones. One supposes it's the outlook of a middle-aged art-rock dad trapped in Frisco during a shaky economy. Just a few years ago, when Gautreau was laid off, he found himself searching for a way to support his family again. Luckily, his situation didn't slow down his creative process. And, on In the Bright Rain, things seem to be getting better.
In a recent interview with the Observer, Gautreau described the new record as having "a much brighter sound." He's mostly right. In the Bright Rain shimmers with new life, though it's still laced with the overcast tone for which Crushed Stars are known.
The first single, "Brighter Now," highlights a chiming guitar over a syncopated rhythm played by drummer Jeff Ryan, another major player on the record. Gautreau's vocals, much like the remainder of the album, fade into the background.
There isn't a bad song on In the Bright Rain. Each stands on its own, short and bittersweet, save for the song's final track. "Take Flight" meanders slowly down the same trance-inducing piano and guitar riff for seven minutes, allowing the listener to peacefully drift away. Then it ends, and you realize you're stuck back in Frisco or some other suburb. Even if you're not, In the Bright Rain is a good trip.