Like many Los Angeles musicians, I am a transplant. An experienced one. I’ve picked up and moved cities a few times, for music and for other reasons. One of the things that have always helped me acclimate me to these new cities has been to study the city’s musical history and hopefully find a story in that history. One of the coolest parts (for me anyways) about writing for Grimy Goods has been reviewing, writing about and (inadvertently) learning the lineage of Los Angeles/So Cal rock. Being the center of the music business, of course L.A. is bound to have a large influence over the sound of America and the world. However, like L.A. itself, L.A.’s musical history when looked at very closely, is a nonsensical hodgepodge of ever-changing styles and unpredictable personalities.
Devon Williams, and his new release Euphoria, is a great example of an artist who’s influences shoot the gamut of So Cal’s musical legacy. Williams is a veteran of So Cal’s melodic punk rock band Osker. His early work is (as a 19-year-old!) is clearly influenced by the Gilman Street era of Bay area punk (itself overly influenced by the first wave of British punk). Signed to Epitaph (of course) as a teen, the Williams-led Osker made two heralded releases before breaking up. Williams then played with some cool hipster friends such as Vivian Girls’ Katy Goodman and modern folk outfit Lavender Diamond and played in some high visibility project until releasing his first solo album, Carefree in 2008.
I’ve heard his music to be described as “Brill Building and Topanga Canyon.” I’d like to add Byrdsian jangle and Beach Boys pure pop to that description — a mélange of all Cali-pop that has come before. His second solo full-length, Euphoria, is blissful pop in the best sense. Euphoria features 12 new songs, recorded and mixed ably by producers (Violens’) Jorge Elbrecht and Dave Carswell (producer of The New Pornographers and Destroyer). Stand out tracks are the Brian Wilson-esque beauty “Revelations” and first single “Your Sympathy.” Williams’ jangly arpeggiated guitar chords ring around like it’s 1965 and we have nothing on our minds deeper than tonight’s pot roast. However, the track “Right Direction” is my personal favorite. It fuses together pop punk, Tin Pan Alley and freak folk, almost working like a musical discography of Williams’ own career, in a catchy but progressive package. “Right Direction’s” soaring chorus and melodramatic string arrangement are Cali pop at its breeziest and finest.
Devon Williams’ work has progressed over the years, always maturing and adding subtle nuances and like Southern California itself, it gets better and better.
Album review by Stephe Sykes
- MP3 downlaod – “Your Sympathy” – Download here