Kelley Stoltz Below the Branches

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kelley Stoltz moved to San Francisco from Detroit to pursue his musical dream and has come to build quite a little legacy in his pursuit. His first album, Antique Glow found a number of different incarnations throughout the world and never stopped creating major interest, receiving abundant critical attention from every ear that found him over its two-year run. From there he completed a song-for-song cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s seminal Crocodiles (renamed Crockodials) and actually performed live a few times in a band featuring fellow Bunnymen nut Scott Kannberg of Pavement fame. Signing to Sub Pop last year, Stoltz retreated back to his old school method of eight-track recordings for Below the Branches, his label debut. Suffice it to say, what Stoltz has done in the privacy of his own home with the help of a few friends is nothing short of a lo-fi masterpiece. Everything about his second album proper is beautifully arranged, from the wonderfully crafted cardboard sleeve to the mixed bag of sweets within. Branches doesn’t settle on any one distinct sound, acting more like a kid in a candy shop, moving from one temptation to another. He matches Brian Wilson’s pop genius on "Ever Thought of Coming Back” without breaking a sweat, masterfully forges a bond between Delta blues and boogie rock with "Birdies Singing,” and even does a spitting image of Richard Hawley with the swooning chamber pop of "No World Like the World.” An extraordinarily gifted songwriter, Stoltz’s "jack of all trades” tactic on Below the Branches makes this the best discovery of 2006 yet. (Sub Pop)