There’s always a place for chiming, ear-candy rock with folk and singer-songwriter tendencies. And that’s what’s offer on Altitude, the new album from Boston-based Kimon Kirk. This guitarist and songwriter had a solid understanding of pop music values, and he crafts accessible tunes that draw the listener in. There are hints of country in subtle use of slide and/or pedal steel guitar, but splashes of Mellotron (also subtle) give the entire affair a more mainstream appeal. The record should find fans among those who like Tom Petty, Gin Blossoms and similarly song-focused artists.
Kirk’s gentle voice is an excellent vehicle to convey his thoughtful lyrics, but it’s really the strong melodies that will hook most listeners. Come for the catchy tunes like “Trampoline,” and stay for the intelligent lyrics. When Kirk dials back the energy – as on “Stranded” – his singer-songwriter character comes to the forefront. The atmospheric textures of “What Do I Know” mine similar territory, and “I Think of You” moves even farther toward a kind of folk-meets-ambient. “Interlude” doubles down on that airy, impressionist vibe.
But then Kirk moves back toward conventional songcraft. Aimee Mann is credited as cowriter on the gentle, contemplative “Baby Who Knows”), and that’s never a bad thing. And then things get amped up with the country-rocking “The Girl I Used to Know,” one of Altitude’s strongest cuts. “Myopic” rocks, too. There are no missteps on this album; it offers a pleasing range of musical textures, from gently rocking to near-abstract instrumental work.