Year of the Album — #033
Only Son – “Searchlight” (2011, Red General Catalog)
Jack Dishel, of Moldy Peaches fame, really comes out of his artistic shell with Searchlight, his sophomore album recorded under the moniker Only Son. Featuring a dozen songs awash in Beatlesque melodies, he continuously twists the music up in knots, managing to constantly surprise the listener on repeated listens thanks to his unique, quirky arrangements and his many deceptive hooks.
“It’s magic, ‘til you know how it works,” he sings. “Nobody wants to see how you do it.” The same applies to the magic of songwriting, and Dishel consistently makes it sound easy even though there are so many layers going on at all times on these songs. “Magic,” the album’s first single, features the strongest link with Lennon-McCartney era pop, layering echoed vocals atop keyboards and guitars that build a complex sound out of a straightforward arrangement. It’s aural alchemy, and he knows he’s got us by the shorthairs.
“It’s A Boy” throws the album’s first curveball, and it’s a doozy, melding a creepy Bradburyesque story of genetic engineering into a song which features a tight bass line and eerie keyboards, culminating in a mindbending chorus which will be guaranteed to stick in your head for weeks. “Stamp Your Name On It” then immediately throws us for a loop, melding “End Of The World As We Know It” era R.E.M. vocals over a clever musical arrangement which owes as much to “Miserlou” as it does to “Rock Lobster.”
The album as a whole is impeccably arranged, with each song playing as well on its own as it does as part of the complete song cycle. Searchlight proves that Jack Dishel is truly a songwriter of note, and he’s got the skills to keep us guessing while continuing to create pop music of the highest order. If you heard this album when it came out in January, give it another shot – there’s so much worth exploring, there’s nothing like a repeat listen to jog the memory. And if you’ve never heard Jack Dishel or Only Son, jump in headfirst, the water’s fine!