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Rob Crow:: Living Well (Album Review)

Rob Crow bounces around a lot, from the assorted weirdness of Thingy to his fondness for the Optigan, an obscure type of organ noted primarily for its legendary unreliability. He’s also the frontman for the constantly up-and-coming Pinback, and so he knows his way around cerebral indie pop. Living Well, recorded quickly and cheaply between projects (and while raising a new son) captures him at his most unfussy. He sounds rushed, like he doesn’t have time for too much tinkering. This is a good thing; Crow’s prolific creativity, a positive trait usually, can be a mixed blessing when it pushes him away from the core of his songs. The guy can write tremendously endearing pop, and he profits when concentrating on just that. Take “Up” for instance, a dreamy little two-and-a-half minutes of brainy, soothing song craft, or the split harmonies that roll over the fading chorus of “Chucked.” Like Sea and Cake without the jazzy overtones, they’re loaded with tender, fleeting wisps of sunny melody. It’s all stripped-down and personal, and even the occasional quirk-freak misstep (“Ring”) eventually dissolves in a warm intimacy. Thoreau famously said “simplify, simplify,” and Crow has apparently listened, much to our collective listening pleasure. –Matthew Cooke