John Brodeur is Bird Streets. Last time around – on 2018’s self-titled debut – he collaborated with Jason Falkner; the result was excellent. This time there’s no Falkner, and the results on Lagoon bear more of Brodeur’s character. He does enlist the talents of some heavyweight-stature pals: Aimee Mann plays bass on one track, Buddy Judge provides some background vocals, and the great Jody Stephens is at the drum kit for several songs.
But more than anything, this is a John Brodeur record. And it’s a thing of beauty. “Sleeper Agent” is fragile baroque pop, displaying shades of Left Banke and Andrew Gold. “Machine” is dramatic, sweeping rock of the mid ‘70s variety. “Burnout” is chiming midtempo rock with high emotional quotient; it’s reminiscent of Semisonic. “The Document” is a stripped-down acoustic ballad with a deliberately creaky vocal (that strikes just the right tone); all of that is set against some lovely clarinet and bass flute.
“Let You Down” is as likely a candidate for Lagoon’s best track, but the 11 other tracks provide plenty of competition in that regard. The subtle slide guitar and strings on “Leave No Trace” may remind some listeners of George Harrison’s masterful All Things Must Pass.
The noisy aggression of “Ambulance” feels a bit out of character with the rest of the album, but that’s not to say that it isn’t an effective track. The melancholy horn charts on “Disappearing Act” sound even less of a piece with the album, but the song is so good that such things don’t matter. The sweet string section that supports Brodeur (on vocals and acoustic guitar) for “On Fire” is simply beautiful and heart-rending. The nakedly confessional “Unkind” is emotionally resonant.
Lagoon has its share of emotionally raw and honest weepers. Even when they’re set against uptempo arrangement, they give the album a contemplative character. But Brodeur knows how to sequence an album, and he end strong with the chiming “Go Free,” a distillation of all of the record’s best qualities. Luxuriate in the Rickenbacker jangle, the soaring vocal harmonies and the assured playing. And then start over again: Lagoon gets even better with repeated spins.