Sparrow The New Pastoral

History has been a little unfair to Jason Zumpano. While former bandmate Carl Newman is regarded as the Canadian saviour of power pop, Zumpano is just a footnote and much of that is because of his surname. Yet he's actually been making some rather impressive music during the last few years as Sparrow. The New Pastoral continues that trend, featuring seven wonderfully upbeat songs with rich, string-laden arrangements that live up to the record's title. Zumpano is joined by the voice of Lucy Brain on every song and while the addition of some harmonies adds to the lushness, it also makes the songs blend into each other. That complaint could be directed at the album as a whole: there aren't many peaks or valleys, just a gorgeous, flat landscape that begins to dull after a while. He needs some more range. Sparrow gets closer to having everything fall into place with each release, but the problem is it's hard to know how close he is to perfecting it, as, apparently, The New Pastoral was recorded back in 2005 and is only getting a proper release now. Hopefully, Zumpano's really got the hang of it by now. (Powertool)