By RICHARD GINTOWT
Look out Robert Pollard - Justin Ripley is hot on your tail.
The moppy-haired Lawrence expatriate is releasing a 28-song solo album called Vowels, and it's got at least as many keepers as Standard Gargoyle Decisions (or any other substandard Pollard opus of late). Recorded mostly at his pad in Seattle (where Ripley's been hanging out since jettisoning Lawrence a year ago), Vowels is a mixed bag of singer-songwritery folk, lo-fi indie pop and quirky instrumentals. It's a bedroom record to the max: chock-full of tambourine but entirely devoid of drums. Ripley's old band, the Pomonas, possessed a sloppy yet tuneful charm that carries over with Vowels.
"Noise Narratives" steals a page out of the Sebadoh playbook, while "If You Are Single, Become A Boyfriend" evokes the Velvet Underground. Ripley plays piano on much of the record, allowing him to downshift to ballad mode and ruminate on how we live in the greatest country in the world ("We Are the Best"). Besides his knack for penning melodies sans cliché, Ripley's sense of humor is still his strongest asset, as evidenced in lines like: I'll guess your weight now / I'm comfortable with you / You and your onus.
About the making of the record, Ripley says: "Vowels is the result of August, September, and October's recordings. I cut myself off once I reached close to 40 songs and put together a sequence of 28. It was written, recorded, and mixed during this time next to my kitchen in my Seattle apartment. My fiance sings on a song, my friend Andy plays bass on a couple, and my friend Scott helped "master" it at his studio. I don't know what else to say. I was pretty easy to work with?"
Ripley is self-releasing the disc on old-fashioned handmade CD-R, and you can hit him up at email@example.com to haggle for a copy. He's got his fingers crossed for a summer tour, and so do we. In the meantime, preview a couple of select tracks below.