In the world of power pop, Jon Auer is royalty. As a co-founder and one-half of the creative force of The Posies (along with Ken Stringfellow), Auer has helped create some albums that equal (at the least) the works of more heralded bands such as Big Star or Cheap Trick.
Surprisingly, Auer’s new release, The Year of Our Demise, marks Auer’s first all-original, full-length solo album, although he has had a mini-career of sorts with various, excellent EPs both of originals and of covers. Auer has also stayed busy producing several artists, playing with Big Star and, along with Ben Folds and others, even played on the recent, well-received album from none other than William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk).
There do not appear to be any singles here that will put Auer’s name into the upper echelons of rock stardom, but the net result is a solid, fifteen track, fifty-five minute release. The songs have a nice balance of singer songwriter simplicity, but they are made incredibly dense with Auer’s superior song writing, various XTC-inspired keyboard riffs, and the layering of Auer’s own always strong vocals. In short, the care that went into this long-awaited album is evident.
Songs From the Year of Our Demise is a departure from Auer’s past stuff. This is a more mature, Baroque record, at times reminiscent of the best, new wav-ish tracks from The Posies‘ 1998 album, Success. This clearly is an intensely personal collection of 15 strong songs, set to what are often almost delicate piano and keyboards.
Unlike some other memoir-styled CDs (Fran Healy and Travis‘ Twelve Memories comes to mind), this CD doesn’t just sound cathartic for the performer, but it is actually engaging for the listener, throughout. And despite the stark subject matter (a sampling of the titles reveals two references to funerals, another to the Bottom of the Bottle, along with Song Noir and Wicked World) – this record is no downer.
I am not big on a lot of contemporary “adult”, singer-songwriter-type stuff, and nor does Songs From the Year of Our Demise necessarily even build on those things I most love about the The Posies (a perfect melding of classic power chords and riffs, stunning melodies and harmonies). Nonetheless, Auer never disappoints and this effort is still growing on me.