After plugging away at both solo and collaborative music projects for the better part of the decade, Easterwood has an output prolific enough to raise the question "You mean he's putting out another record?" And in listening to his latest outing, Secret Power (of You), you'll see that Easterwood's disassociation from trend or expectations seems more potently realized than ever. The full-length self-release (half solo project, half with Easterwood's band, Junky Southern) ups the ante on his moody, dreamy pop while leaving in place the foundations of twang and blues found on last year's Absolute Blue. In other words, Secret Power is ambitious, immensely listenable, and in constant flirtation with unexpected bliss. Just when you think a song might shatter to the ground in a mess of confused intentions, he hoists it up to the most innovative, victorious resolution. Brilliant.
Wearing his lifelong Stones admiration like a disarming badge of honor, the album's opener "Lay Me Down" and "Act Your Age" lay bare the scruffy, punchy melancholy of classic-definition rock. But other than that, Secret Power's twelve selections are virtually uncategorizable, unless that happens to be one of the categories. His voice is wispy enough to waft through any kind of tune yet raspy and knowing enough to lend heft to his dreamer-cynic wordplay. Easterwood always lets the process serve the individual song -- heavy retro reverb here, adventurous lo-fi there, haunting folk gut-wrench and big-rawk rebellion in between. "Prodigal son(g)" takes an old gospel sound with traditional harmonies into a new arena of secular bastardization, while the compressed, riff-laden "ellausegeS (Deus ex Machina)" goes where Johnny Marr might if he liked psychedelic back-masking and Sentridoh. "For Bill Hicks," meanwhile, is a unswerving dirge-homage to a lost talent. All of the songs spin in their disparate spheres, but Easterwood's aesthetic undercurrent ties them together. Let's just hope he reaches a larger and much deserved audience this time out.