Howie Day

Though I might conceivably covet his major-label record deal, his apple-cheeked cross-campus fan base and perhaps most of all his well-stocked backstage deli trays, I don't envy 22-year-old Maine native Howie Day's place in the pop-musical landscape. As only the latest in an incredibly long line of sensitive-guy singer-songwriters to snake through music fans' attention spans during the past couple of years, Day's got the difficult task of carving a long-term career out of a shtick that actually yields higher short-term dividends the more it resembles that of Pete Yorn or David Gray or John Mayer. Stop All the World Now, Day's second album, plainly carries that burden: It's waterlogged folk-pop that wants to be serious without being tedious, well-arranged without being overproduced, immediate without being careless, easily memorable without being predictable. Unfortunately, it's all of those things, so you end up with modest highlights like OK-Coldplay single "Perfect Time of Day" along with bland, aimless strumfests like "She Says."

Fellow New Englander Bleu McAuley's deli trays are probably less impressive than Day's, yet there's a shameless arena-pop charm to Redhead, the major-label debut by the band that bears his name, that at least distinguishes it from the pack: zippy Tom Scholz leads, chewy Todd Rundgren harmonies, jubilant sleigh-bell jingles, anti-Hollywood chest-beating that works because could you possibly care any less? In the light of day Redhead probably resembles bad Ben Folds, but context can work wonders.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mikael Wood