For almost 15 years, Charlie Mason has been sending his lyrics over to Berlin, where Dirk Homuth set them to music and put them on tape (or whatever). This is the fourth recorded collaboration, the third released in the U.S. (and also the third with a stable band).
That's an interesting footnote, but it also explains the vast spaces created within these pop gems. I suppose one might call this americana (in the most expansive sense), given the largely acoustic settings. But Almost Charlie is a Berlin band, and the structures here owe much more to pop (the Beatles, in particular) than any folk tradition you might name. The easiest sonic touchpoint for me is Peter Case, though the melodies are much more effervescent, and the lyrics are much more incisive.
It may be five years since the last album, but I don't detect much evolution in the sound. Which is fine by me, because I consider Almost Charlie's songs to be about as close to crafted perfection as exists in the pop world. Beautiful, witty and often heart-rending, the overall effect is one similar to that I get listening to Floating Opera, another highly-infrequently recording pop act (and whose latest album I reviewed recently). When the songs are finished, I feel a sense of melancholy and loss because I can never recapture the feeling of experiencing these songs for the first time.
The plus side of recorded music, however, is that one can listen over and over. And while one can get accustomed to beauty to the point of indifference, I always catch my breath when I see my wife, even though we've been together for almost 30 years. Almost Charlie does the same thing for me--musically, of course. Even after the "grooves" have been worn down to the nubs, these songs are fresh and gorgeous. Superlatives are wan substitutes for expressing the wonder I feel listening to Almost Charlie.
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