After a long gap in recordings as a member of The Paper Jets, Asbury Park singer-songwriter Brian Erickson has released his third album in as many years with his compelling and completely self-produced and -performed solo debut LP, “Little Secrets,” on Mint 400 Records. ARTWORK BY LIZ CACOPHONUS
For several years, Asbury Park singer-songwriter Brian Erickson sat on his band The Paper Jets’ last album awaiting a decent record deal. Since The Paper Jets finally dropped that swan song, “Everyday Forever,” in 2018, Brian has released an LP or EP every year, makin’ up for lost time. Last year, he offered the listening landscape, “Bellicose,” from his new band, The Extensions, who landed that deal Brian had been awaiting with the esteemed North Jersey-based indie Mint 400 Records.
But before The Extensions could dust the winter cobwebs off their instrument cases, the pandemic hit, and Brian shuttered himself in his home studio in AP. The glorious result also via Mint 400 is “Little Secrets,” his solo debut and third album in as many years with a fourth already mastered for solo release on Mint in February.
After that long Paper Jets delay, it’s great to see the 2018 Makin Waves Vocalist of the Year not only put his lauded three-octave vocal range to good use but also his many other talents, most of which he kept hidden, hence “Little Secrets.”
Inspired by Paul McCartney’s “Ram” and Soccer Mommy’s “Clean,” the 10-song one-man-band-and-production opens with “Shore Towns.” The LP’s second single is a dreamy Brian Wilson-like nugget in ode to the New York-bred artist’s adopted homeland on which Brian harmonizes with himself like The Beach Boys, while also channeling the 1970s folk-rock trio America with the acoustic nature of the track.
The next number, “All That We Could,” also dreamy but also occasionally quirky. On the recording console, Brian channels one of his faves, Brian Eno, with twisting textures and haunting atmospherics, making for a trinity of Brians on the album’s first two tracks.
“Hit or Miss” also layers vocals within clever Elvis Costello-like internal rhymes and alongside a driving acoustic rhythm accented with a mix of plinky and lush keys. “Another Finished Novel,” a single that premiered here as a Makin Waves Song of the Week, was penned by one-time Paper Jet Bill Lambusta now with Fake Pockets.
A delicious and delightful mix between McCartney and Wilson, the title track is like smack to a ‘60s psychedelic-pop junkie as it plays with melody and harmony like a game of bocce. The warbly instrumental, “Sleeping at Jesse’s House,” sounds like the old Asbury Park carousel submersed in the ocean. The oddly charming track immediately segues into “Left to Find,” which features John Lennon-like existentialism to a Mop-Top beat.
The bittersweet “Mall Madness” sounds like Christmas in Laurel Canyon or Malibu with a chimey soft-rock sensibility along the lines of Seals and Crofts and Colbie Caillat. “Burning Bones,” a pretty but sad McCartney-like snippet about loneliness, leads into the lilting closing instrumental “Christmas in July.” Brian’s bouncy, fluid bass performance is particularly impressive on this track, as well as the effective use of keys chiming and swirling around a thunderstorm sound effect.
As a veteran artist, Brian has paid his dues, learning much along the way that he has harvested into a magnificently self-sufficient solo debut. Congratulate him and celebrate his accomplishment on Sept. 18 with a virtual release party whose bill he’ll share with label mate Devon Moore, front woman of the aforementioned Fake Pockets. The online event will take place 8 p.m. at www.facebook.com/mint400records.