Indie Round-Up: Boggia, Coppola, Saunders, Jezzro

Jim Boggia, Misadventures in Stereo

Jim Boggia makes melodic, smart pop that's warmhearted but never overheated. He obviously internalized a lot of Beatles along the way, but he's actually mastered and incorporated a whole range of pop music strains into this engaging collection.

Boggia divides the disc into two "sides" (it's coming out on LP as well) and this doesn't seem like a gimmick, given songs called "8Track" and "Listening to NRBQ." Rather, it's a sign of a songwriter (and a bunch of excellent instrumental collaborators) who have music in their bones, make it for their own pleasure, and convey that feeling to the listener.

Boggia is the type of guy who'll take some background vocals he recorded for someone else's album, lift them out, and stick them between two songs on his own record because he liked them and they were buried in the mix on the other record. Then he'll close with "Three Weeks Shy," as potent an indictment of Bush and the Iraq War travesty as you'll hear in a song.

Lisa Coppola, Wisdom from the Pain

This country-rock EP boasts songs by John Waite and the Spin Doctors' Anthony Krizan. Coppola delivers them with steely determination and a twinkle in her eye. The most "country" song on here is "Your Love is Like a Rodeo," a fun tune on which, however, Coppola's voice sounds pinched. She's more engaging and convincing on the more soulful rockers "When You Were Mine" and "Temporary Heart," both of which are hit worthy. Cheap sentiment sinks the title ballad, but the closer, "Make This Moment (To Love Again)," while sentimental as well, has the charm of a classic pop bauble from the 50s.

Dudley Saunders, The Emergency Lane

Dudley Saunders started as a New York City performance artist, but the music he created for his act took on a life of its own, and now he's a recording artist with three CDs under his belt. This, his latest, is the first I've had a chance to hear, and it bears out some of the flattering words Saunders has gotten in the mainstream press. His voice has a tight quaver and a lot of focused power, like Jeff Buckley's. I didn't like Jeff Buckley – he always seemed to me a great voice in search of something to sing (I did like him when he sang covers) – but I do like a lot of Saunders's material here. A cross between modern folk and art song, it has a timeless quality, a soothing sound partially masking a humming tension. His voice is a finely tuned, subtle instrument, and his images flow like water:

buck-tooth call-girls on the corner
like red-haired roses in the rain
dropped off by a drunken mourner
on the wrong grave like a train
that old west bandits disconnected
from the engines and left scattered
'cross the tracks their vaults dissected
hoping that guy's looking at her

See the way he snaps you back to the scene at hand with that last line, like an actor with an audience in his hand. And then there's "Love Song for Jeffrey Dahmer." The visceral lyrics of these songs sometimes remind me of Leonard Cohen: "take me back home / 'cause you're the only rider / on the highway in my bones," Saunders sings in "Take Me Back Home Again."

Jack Jezzro, Solitude

The latest recording from busy bassist and guitarist Jack Jezzro is this solo guitar collection of standards, played in a relaxed (and relaxing) but not syrupy mode. Jezzro hits all the right notes on the way to striking this balance, in chestnuts like "Autumn Leaves," "Make Someone Happy," and the beautiful title track, a song made famous by Billie Holiday but that we don't hear often enough anymore. This disc would be a perfect gift for someone you love who has good taste in music, but really needs to calm down.