Joey Verskotzi emerged from his Minneapolis home with the enthusiasm of a young puppy; apparently fond of the emotive pull and key changes of Death Cab For Cutie. Yet whilst 2011’s ‘Lessons Learned’ EP signaled the arrival of a burgeoning talent, it definitely lacked some restraint. Well, it’s good to see that exuberance remains two and a half years later but ‘Lemon Heart’ is more impressive for the musical growing-up process Verskotzi has benefited from in the intervening years.
The album is noticeably tougher and more muscular from the outset, partly from meatier production values (kudos to band member Izaac Burkhart for this) and partly from Verskotzi’s own new found swagger. The guitars and bass throb around Verskotzi’s clear vocals which now seem infused with a growing maturity. More importantly, ‘Luck’ is an excellent and bruising indie rock song centred around a buzzsawing pop chorus. One things for sure, those Death Cab Cutie comparisons don’t seem appropriate anymore (except maybe on the comparatively soppy, romantic finale ‘Diamond Ring’).
The pounding ‘8th St. Train’ and the bluesy ‘Heartless Songs’ are bursting with 1970’s hooks whilst the outstanding ‘Honey’ rattles along with fleshy rhythms and another superb, catchy chorus. Even when he slows down the pace on the largely acoustic ‘Blue’, the delivery – in keeping with the arrangement – is heartfelt but subtle and slightly eerie too and the longest track, ‘Abandoned Love’, shines brightly thanks to an ambitious, multi-layered arrangement.
It’s always encouraging to witness musicians develop and that is certainly the case with Verskotzi and his well-drilled crew. The best songs here are truly driving and even though they tend to eschew the more fashionable indie route, the radio rock approach is the best way forward for him.
Bandcamp Stream for Verskotzi – Lemon Heart