When it came to quality power pop in 2013, pardon the pun but there was nobody better than Ezra Furman.
For both Year of No Returning and Day of the Dog, the Oakland-based songwriter opted to record without his longtime Tufts University-born group The Harpoons, instead utilizing the skills of his current touring band the Boy-Friends to deliver this potent one-two punch of a pair of LPs that explores Furman’s range as both a singer and composer far beyond the four-man format. Eschewing the brash bash of the Harpoons in favor of a crisper, more focused palate, both albums stand side by side as equal showcases for Ezra’s immense talents.
Tracks like “Lay in the Sun” and “Are You Gonna Break My Heart?” from Year have this wired twang to them that might remind some of Hallowed Ground-era Violent Femmes while further down the track list he taps into his inner Paul Westerberg on “Doomed Love Affair”. Then when you jump over to Dog, you get pure CBGB ’78 cherry bombs like “Tell Them All to Go to Hell” and “I Wanna Destroy Myself” intersect with the shimmering Miracle Legion-esque jangle pop of “My Zero” and quirky Jonathan Richman-esque ditties like “Cherry Lane”.
And then when you factor in Furman’s pointed, poetic lyricism about manic depression, pure mania, it finally hits you like a ton of bricks that you are enrapt in the melodies from the mind of one of the 21st Century’s great new pop men.