The Green Pajamas - Northern Gothic (2002)

The Green Pajamas' Jeff Kelly is one of the most gifted songwriters of intelligent psychedelic pop. He can combine effortlessly the out-there feel of a good psychedelic song with a catchy refrain; all without stumbling upon a cliche. There is dreaminess and a dark romanticism in his words and melodies, but also the bite of English avant-folkie Peter Blegvad. Northern Gothic, released in late 2002, is particularly well-written. Kelly handles almost everything, from singing lead with his soft voice to playing trippy guitar solos and providing the percussives. Karl Wilhelm drums on three tracks, Joe Ross adds bass guitar on two. Eric Lichter has contributed two songs ("Coyotes and Comets" and "Wild Wild Reefs," both more alternative radio oriented), and plays on another. Laura Weller also wrote a song and sings on four more. Highlights include the spacy "In the Burning Moonlight" and "Blue Halloween Moon" (fantastic guitar solo here). "Christine Crystalline" and "First Love" pair gentle, uplifting melodies with bottom-heavy guitar riffs that bring to mind both Concrete Blonde (circa Bloodletting) and Metallica's ballads. In other places, the country twang of heartland American rock rears its head, and that's when Kelly's songs are the most touching. A few tracks stretch out to seven minutes, but none overstay their welcome, which just goes to show that Kelly has mastered the correct dosage of psychedelic pixie dust. Northern Gothic will please fans and newcomers alike. - AMG

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