Take a walk down Haight Street in San Francisco, and you might get the impression that the ’60s never really ended. On one hand, it’s something of a free-spirited utopia, where one can find toy robots, Amoeba Music and Frjtz, one of the best damn french fry and crepe shops around. On the other hand, there are some crusty hippies who probably look the same as they did in 1969, just significantly older.
Kelley Stoltz, a musician who happens to hail from San Francisco, evokes a similar feeling of Summer of Love stasis through his music, yet it’s one more influenced by The Kinks or The Beach Boys than Big Brother and the Holding Company. His 2006 album Below The Branches was all bouncy Davies-inspired psychedelia and giddy plinks of piano. With Circular Sounds that hasn’t changed much. His warm, rich analog sound is still largely one of classic rock and pop, and, if anything, he dives even farther into a vintage vinyl realm, doing mostly away with any lingering threat of contemporary lo-fi indie pop.
It’s a good thing, then, that Stoltz is so good at what he does. He was able to stir up some magic on Branches, and with some more elaborate tricks in the studio, he makes an even grander statement, if one that branches from a similar starting point. One can still largely hear the sound of The Kinks in tracks like “Everything Begins” and “The Birmingham Eccentric,” and “Gardenia” has a touch of Donovan, and even a bit of Nick Drake’s delicacy. It may sound like I’m making Stoltz out to be entirely derivative of his ’60s heroes, but that’s not exactly what I’m getting at. Stoltz has a particularly definitive style, one that can only be identified as his own when it tickles the listener’s ears. But within that unique sound, there are more than a few remnants of the past stewing around. And he happens to occasionally crank out a truly classic song, like the incredible “Mother Nature.”
On occasion, Stoltz will create a sound reminiscent of more current artists, like “Tintinnabulations,” which sounds a bit similar to Elliott Smith’s “Son of Sam.” By and large, however, Stoltz seems to look back fondly at the sounds of the past, when Orange amps ruled and Hal Blaine sat in on many a session. That he’s able to capture a similarly warm and rich sound while maintaining a musical identity of his own just goes to show that sometimes it’s wise to take lessons from the past to heart.
The Kinks – Face to Face
Richard Davies – Telegraph
The Minders – Hooray For Tuesday
MP3: “Your Reverie”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.