" The Soft Pop Stylings of "...
Chet Delcampo - Apartment Songs
Over the years, a popular hallucination of the home recordist has developed: More often than not, when you hear of this artist or another going it alone within the confines of his very own limitless hard drive, the image is conjured of a hapless, tweaked Richard Dreyfuss standing in his living room, towering over a wild mountain range made of nothing more than mashed potatoes and insane desperation.
Well, that's just the first instance where Chet DelCampo breaks the mold. And he just keeps going. In a world where heart-on-their-sleeve singer/songwriters are the norm, Delcampo balances it out with a wit to match; where more traditionally rootsy candidates earn their chips through sweat and grind, Delcampo comes off as knowing and debonair. Where others rock, Chet does one better: He holds you close. And his latest continues proving that he's basically the James Mason of indie-rock: cool, confident and not to be crossed.
For the Philadelphia singer/songwriter's second proper full-length, DelCampo (born in another time, another place as the humble, sweet Chris Madl) has turned his fancies to indoor sports; the result, which suavely convinces the organic and the electronic to finally lie down together, is Apartment Songs. It's in line with the man's developing neo-Bacharach aessthetic begun (against all odds) in 1980s Los Angeles, continued in mid-90s Seattle and then London, and then, finally, settling in Philadelphia, where DelCampo's could emanate from the very same grey air as his beloved Gamble and Huff favorites.
Coming live and direct from a perch atop historic Old City, Philadelphia, the record is every bit as sophisticated and sleek as Chet's last, the widely acclaimed The Fountain (Record Cellar). What's different, however, is that the man has taken personal and this time, made it epic: Apartment Songs has an cinematic sweep and panache that calls to mind such recent instant classics as Yo La Tengo's And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, East River Pipe's The Gasoline Age and Mark Eitzel's 60 Watt Silver Lining. "Anna Marie" sounds dirty and sleek at once. "Sunday At Noon" slices the whole thing in half in all its instrumental glory. "A Candle Is A Furnace" burns slow and sinister.
All told, with 12 songs clocking in at just over a half-hour, Apartment Songs is the most perfectly manicured ode to grace under heartache that you'll hear this year - it's dignified and cool, but goddamn it wishes you didn't have to go baby. Listen to what you're missing.
* Quotes & Press...
" ...I love the mood of the music on c.w.t.t.h. (Coffee with Tom T. Hall), sounds like good weather to have a cup. Wish you all the best with your music."...
- Mr. Tom T. Hall
"Hey maaaan, this album (The Fountain) of yours is pretty f#*#*namazing! It has caught me totally by surprise..."
_F.M. Cornog (East River Pipe)
"Your music's not bad"
_ A.Bruno Lawrance (Chet's nephew)
"Genuinely good pop is likable for the same reasons as are genuinely good people. It's smart. It's friendly without being desperate. It's endearing without kissing your ass. Perhaps the apartment in which Chet Delcampo recorded Apartment Songs is a microcosm of that larger musical space. Within it, he has created a gorgeous album of mature soft pop, instantly seductive yet long lasting. You'll listen to it all day, and then you'll come right back to it the next morning.
Let's get it out of the way: Delcampo isn't the best singer. He pulls off a vitally important trick most of the time, hiding his voice inside itself and turning something essentially unappealing into something pretty. In this incarnation, it is unspectacular, but serves the music well. When Delcampo lets his "real" voice be heard, it feels a little intrusive (albeit, in the end, still winning).
The instrumentals are what really make Apartment Songs a keeper. Delcampo has done a shockingly good job with the production, considering the apartment setting in which these lovely, textured pieces were recorded. They evoke rock one minute and country the next, hooking you with whichever sound is your inclination and using that initial connection to ease you through sounds that, though perhaps not your cup of tea, suddenly sound right.
Delcampo draws you in with the sweet, twinkling "What A Star Should Be", then tightens his grip with the irresistible "Anna Marie". This tune starts out soft and hypnotic, with Delcampo gently chanting "Anna Marie / See me / I didn't want to tell ya" against a backdrop of gently treated drums, delicately plucked guitar and rich piano. He slowly works his way into a natural and comparably loud electric guitar solo, which in turn segues into more delicate guitars and a sweet, subtle horn melody that floats slightly above the rest of the mix. These elements coalesce, then return to the core sound established at the song's starting point, and before you know it you're in love. Then the song is over, and another has taken its place. So the album goes.
The most important element of these twelve songs is their ability to keep you guessing. Maybe the key is Delcampo's immaculate timing -- he can be depended upon to cut the song off just after you've felt it deepest, but before the feeling truly ebbs. You're satisfied in all the most important ways, but inevitably find that you need to have more.
The consistent quality of the songs, their cumulative, irreversible effect, the album's sterling DIY production, and the fact that this is by and large the work of one man, are all improbable. The fact that I hadn't previously heard of Delcampo's work? That's just annoying."
- Mike Meginnis, Splendidezine
In Philadelphia pop/rock circles, singer/songwriter Chet Delcampo has sometimes been compared to another Chet: the late cool jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker . It's definitely a valid comparison -- up to a point, anyway. Delcampo, like Baker , thrives on subtlety, softness, and understatement; Apartment Songs , Delcampo's second album, isn't the work of a screamer any more than the countless jazz recordings that Baker provided when he was alive. But it's important to stress that the Baker /Delcampo comparison has to do with Delcampo's effective use of economy and restraint rather than his choice of a genre. While Baker was very much a jazz improviser -- Miles Davis was his primary influence -- Delcampo's turf is alternative pop/rock; he can be jazzy, but he isn't jazz. Delcampo doesn't get into bop changes on Apartment Songs ; he doesn't scat-sing his way through anything by Sonny Rollins or Clifford Brown . Delcampo does, however, bring something delightfully intimate (not to mention soulful) to hushed, moody, gently reflective offerings like "Day in the Fall" and "A Candle Is a Furnace." According to the credits, all of the material on this 2003 release was "recorded in an apartment (in) Olde City, Philadelphia, PA" -- which explains why the CD is titled Apartment Songs . These days, a lot of great-sounding CDs are recorded in home studios, and Apartment Songs isn't lacking in the area of sound quality any more than it is lacking in craftsmanship -- Apartment Songs , in fact, sounds well-produced but not overproduced. Like Delcampo's previous release, The Fountain ,Apartment Songs has enjoyed more attention in the Philly/South Jersey/Delaware Valley area than it has nationally. But that doesn't make Delcampo's performances any less compelling, and one hopes that he will eventually enjoy the amount of national exposure that he deserves.
- Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
Check out the artist's website:
1. What a Star Should Be
2. Anna Marie
3. In It Together
4. So Little Time
5. Can't Complain
6. Sunday At Noon
7. Steady Rain
8. Day in the Fall
9. Cole Porter Phrase
10. A Candle Is a Furnace
11. Pretty Voice
12. So Much