Bill Janovitz Up Here

"This town ain't got the heart you wear on your sleeve," sings Bill Janovitz, on "Long Island," a song about feeling restless within the clutches of soulless, colourless suburban life. The line, and the entire song, might as well be about Janovitz's place in the music business, and even within the alt-rock world. During his time in Buffalo Tom, his heart has been worn positively ragged on his sleeve over six albums of the scrappiest, most heartfelt and tuneful anthemic power pop that not nearly enough people cared about, distracted as fans usually have been by the antics of alt-rock brats or acts with a firmer grasp of fashion and demographics. Now that Buffalo Tom is on indefinite hiatus, Janovitz has just released his second solo album, but it's far from a stopgap. Far richer and more assured than his solo debut, Lonesome Billy, Janovite goes deeper into spooky country, gritty blues and melodic singer-songwriter pop with Up Here, and makes much of the difference between lonesome and lonely. Loneliness can make you want to slit your own throat, but a distant train whistle is exquisitely lonesome. Loneliness can make you despair, but there's something nearly romantic about lonesome things. It's muteness you can wallow in, and this album, while by no means a one-note downer, is an album you can comfortably wallow in. Where he really nails it is on "Your Stranger's Face," a song every bit as lonesome as you'd expect from the title. Using the novel approach of feeding a pedal steel through a Space Echo, Janovitz bathes the song in the melancholy strains of what sounds like the ghost of a sad carnival shutting down for the night. Inventive ways of making lonesomeness sound pretty is one way pop music continually manages to rejuvenate itself in the face of everything that would make it banal and monochrome. (Spinart)