Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Graham Wright is better (un?)known as the keyboardist for local indie-rock wunderkinds Tokyo Police Club, but on Shirts Vs. Skins he makes a strong bid for an official solo guy position. In 2008 he released the free-to-download The Lakes of Alberta EP, but its brevity and folksy singer/songwriter-y lean made it feel a little less of a certified side project than an easy uptake for anyone in a band with an acoustic guitar and GarageBand.
Shirts Vs. Skins is an immediate grab with Wright’s full-band power-pop arrangements and confident frontman vocals. It’s apparently the first of three planned releases in a series—this one being the classic heartbreak album, filtered through a ton of defense-mechanism snark such as on “Heavens Just for Moviemakers,” (streaming above), a structurally straightforward but instrumentally diverse track that loosely defines the first half of the album.
There’s some hints of his acoustic days here, too, and in the larger scope of this album they work quite well. “Keys to the Kingdom,” even with its back/throat/side/chest–stabbing, crying in your car imagery, is one of the most sincere two-and-a-half minutes on the album, eventually finding Wright waiting at home for someone that just never came back. It’s a sentiment much more appealing than the condescending tone of songs like “Potassium Blast,” even if the latter itself serves as a perfect mouthpiece for the latter half of the album—turned down in volume so that the horns stand out as some of the most intriguing bits of arrangement heard throughout.
Graham Wright establishes himself as a natural songwriting talent not afraid of exploring music or conceptual themes, and Shirts Vs. Skins is a naturally charming concoction of eccentric pop. It’s at times a little too cheeky, but if ’90s power-pop revivalism á la They Might Be Giants or latter-day Fountains of Wayne is your jam, dig in.