For fans of post-Beatles pop-rock, there are certain standards for well-crafted, memorable songs: bittersweetly beguiling melodies, distinctive singing, and themes aimed slyly at the heart as well as the head. On top of that, there is the influence of classic tunes from the Sixties and Seventies — Elvis Costello, XTC, Squeeze, Ron Sexsmith, Aimee Mann, Lloyd Cole, and, of course, Sam Phillips. Push Any Button is Phillips’ tenth album and her first non-online-only release in five years. It’s short, at about thirty minutes, but it’s so darn swell, at half that length it’d still be worth your coin.
The irresistible folk-rocker kiss-off “When I’m Alone” bounces along with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of Donovan, the ache of The Everly Brothers, and the rugged twang of Buck Owens. “See You in Dreams” finds Phillips’ soulfully pensive voice borne upon dense, elegant waves of real strings. The strings-and-voice combination on “Going” distills non-whiny melancholy in the manner of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” The bitter rocker “Things I Shouldn’t Have Told You” thunders like Phil Spector producing The Who, with stormy drums, eerie handclaps, haunting wordless refrain, an acid-tongued vocal, and snarling guitar that evokes spaghetti Western soundtracks.
There is no excess on Push Any Button, and the singer’s heart is laid bare for all to hear. So excellent! (Littlebox Recordings)