Ella/Not Lame

A sign of the times and an indication of how long it’s been since Minneapolis native Willie Wisely last put out an album of all new material: I used to listen to his previous efforts on the first MP3 player I ever owned, one that only held about a half hour of music. So where has he been? Dabbling in film scoring, deejaying, and even acting according to his bio. From the sound of things on Parador he has also, like many of us, done a lot of growing up.

His first solo album in eight years attempts to split the difference between his power pop past and a more mature singer-songwriter sound. Love and loss color this layered, melancholy disc and there’s a distinct personal touch to the lyrics. The record has all the hooks of his mid ’90s gems She and Turbosherbet but avoids the derivative and obvious pastiches that sometimes mar the power pop genre.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t easy to know where Wisely is coming from. The pretty, acoustic “Through Any Window” is McCartney-esque in the best possible way and the bossa nova-style knockout “Who Blew Out the Sun?” recalls both The Zombies and The Guess Who’s “Undun.” “Joke” rocks a bit harder as Wisely sings about being the butt of one. The seize-the-day manifesto “Drink Up” with its off-kilter hooks is ’80s-tinged bubblegum. “Stayin’ Home Again” layers on the guitars while making good use of cello, violin and some unusual keyboard sounds. And all of his melodic gifts are in evidence on the title track, a beautiful song with nice backing vocals from Rebecca Lord.

The only real misstep here, “Let Me Run Wild,” features processed-sounding lower register vocals that seem misplaced and phony. Fortunately a killer chorus and the surrounding musical touches nearly rescue it.

The good news is Wisely sounds even better these days on my iPod than he did on that first MP3 player. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait until it’s a door stop to hear his next batch of songs.

Willie Wisely: www.wiselymusic.com

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