January 28, 2005

Shortcut - Archer Prewitt

Archer Prewitt is a pop musician in the great tradition of the singer-songwriter. As with Low, this is my introduction to Prewitt, and I am struck by the confidence in his craftsmanship, which is evident in his unconventional song structures as well as in his innovative sonic touches. Like Low, Prewitt presents himself as a veteran artist unafraid to augment what already works.

Born and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky, Prewitt has been a mainstay on the Chicago music scene since leaving art school in Kansas City. Having arrived in 1991with his kitsch-pop band, the Coctails, in the intervening years Prewitt has released a few albums with that group (since disbanded); 6 LPs and counting with his current band, the Sea and Cake; and now four records as a solo artist. When he's not recording, Prewitt writes and illustrates the cult comic serial Sof' Boy, for which he might be more famous in some circles.

On Wilderness, Prewitt expands and enriches his signature chamber pop sound with an expert band of multi-instrumentalists, including Dave Max Crawford of Poi Dog Pondering and ex-Coctail Mark Greenberg. Prewitt's prolificacy as an artist (he also drew the album's cover) is only matched by his diverse array of skills. On the record, he plays the most instruments of anyone, and also assumes the rotating cloaks of the best singer-songwriters, his comfortable tenor perfectly complementing the intimate arrangements.

The record is very consistent, and there is hardly a weak spot to be found. However, the first three songs rival any of those on fellow popster A.C. Newman's debut, my top album of last year. Prewitt's songs lack the efficiency of Newman's, preferring to wind their way to stunning conclusions, which are sometimes more powerful than Newman's direct punches. The opening chimes of Wilderness introduce the heavenly chorus of "Way of the Sun," leading into the Cat Stevens-esque "Leaders" with its lovely instrumental coda, and finally ending with the frantic, melancholic crescendo of "O, KY." The rest of the album is gravy.

Prewitt plays the Empty Bottle on February 5, and Martyr's on March 11.