Songs My Mom Likes EP
Style: singer-songwriter grows up
Naming your CD Songs My Mom Likes is positively brilliant. Any critic who writes a bad review isn't just insulting Finkel, but also his mother, and somehow that is a whole lot worse. Luckily, his mother has good taste. Aside from the instrumental piano track that ends the EP, this is a pretty remarkable collection of songs. The only reason his mom could possibly like "The Collector" is as a reminder of all the piano recitals she had to sit through when Marty was a kid. And that is exactly what it sounds like, throughout the CD Finkel proves himself to be a much more capable pianist than the hesitant playing on the final track.
His previous release Sleeping With the Stars displayed his talent for introspective, intelligent lyrics, but it was lacking in the melody department, each song a strummed confessional, nice but rather same-y. On this outing it becomes obvious he's spent much of the last year listening to Elliott Smith, and it's definitely influenced his songwriting. While it hints at just a tad obsessive, Finkel traveled to Portland OR to record these songs at the legendary Jackpot! Studios where Smith also recorded, even using the same piano. There is no doubt that this immersion benefited his songwriting. Each song has something to recommend it- from the opener "Months and Weeks," a guitar and piano burner with the occasional ping of a xylophone, through penultimate track, the Beatle-esque "Dance With Me" which uses the start-soft-and-build blueprint of their "Carry That Weight." It probably isn't a coincidence that Smith was also often called Beatle-esque.
Second track "Billy Soder-Sakk" actually echoes another Portland band (and Jackpot! Studios alumnus) the Decemberists. The shortest song of the bunch, its plaintive request "I want my best friend back" and assertion that "He was going to be a man today/ there was nothing we could do" implies a bad ending, belied by the song's bouncy tune. "I'm Going With You" could have been an outtake from "Wide Awake, It's Morning," the more country of Bright Eyes' pair of '05 albums. All that's missing is an Emmy Lou Harris backing vocal. Even more country is the lovely "Only One Who Makes You Sing" which features a lovely slide guitar turn from co-producer Adam Pike to compliment Finkel's jangly guitar and brushed drums.
If Finkel's songwriting continues to grow at this impressive rate, his next work could be a masterpiece. As for this record, well, I agree with his mom, I like these songs too.