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The Black Watch - Here & There (ATOM)

19 November 2021

The Black Watch’s bounty of quality songs continues with Here & There, the L.A. band’s fourth release in the past two years. As always, singer/songwriter John Andrew Frederick’s seemingly effortless balance of head and heart pours like fine wine, as smooth on the dreamy vanguard cut “Now & Then” as on the fuzzed-out psych rocker “The Real You.” It’s almost a cliché at this point, but the record contains some of the band’s best work: the midtempo charmer “Days When the Rain,” which seems to channel all of the Anglophiliac Frederick’s loves at once; the crunchy rocker “Another for C.,” part of a series of songs dedicated to his son Chandler, which often brings out the best in him; the sprightly popster “Lora, Not a Day Goes By That I Don’t Very Wonder How You Are,” whose title speaks for itself; and the drifting enigma “Hyperthmesia,” a heavily psychedelic exploration of emotion and memory. More famous songwriters would kill for this kind of consistency.

After several albums of fairly forthright rocking, Frederick and his current crew loosen up a bit here, letting the tracks flow more often than race to the finish line. That doesn’t mean the songs get half-assed readings, mind – just that there’s a sense of letting the tracks happen instead of pushing them forward, an approach that particularly benefits his singing. Nothing wrong with either method, of course, and we wouldn’t change a thing about any TBW record that’s come before. But it’s nice to hear Frederick’s exceptional songcraft given a more unbuttoned treatment. Here & There is (yet another) yet another excellent album in a ridiculously strong catalog.