New Zealand-born Peter Bruntnell may now reside outside of London, but his musical home is in the heart of Americana. Drawing inspiration from both of the Tupelo boys, he mixes Jay Farrar's haunted prairie sound with Jeff Tweedy's twangy pop melodicism. His last album, 1999's "Normal For Bridgwater," was a gorgeous effort and this one - his first on Back Porch - is just as sublime.
"Here Comes The Swells" gets the disc off to a terrific start; its jangly music brightening the rather dark lyrical mood. Bruntnell shifts easily between low-key, lonesome songs like "Downtown" and "Lonesome Charlie" and harder rocking (noticeably harder rocking than on his prior record) ones like "Tabloid Reporter" and "Rio Tinto" that feature James Walbourne's vibrant guitar work.
The album holds a strong melancholic air, brought on by Bruntnell's often downbeat subject matter (songs deals with greedy developers, heartless corporations and boastful murderers) and his hushed, wistful singing. But his vocals, which suggest a less ironic Evan Dando, also brings a warm, welcoming vibe that keeps the disc from getting dreary. The music finds the gifted Bruntnell standing out in the ever-crowded field of singer/songwriter.