Album Review: Dan Kibler – Idiomatic

I wouldn’t necessarily bet my retirement savings on it, but if Discogs is correct, Idiomatic is the first new release from Dan Kibler since his self-titled album from 2012. As it happens, I reviewed that one, and I’m pleased to have this latest one in hand.

More than a decade ago I characterized Dan Kibler as a kind of power pop with twang, akin to the work of Tom Petty. Time has a way of changing things, but in this case I don’t know if it’s Kibler or me. The album’s opening track “This World” feels less countrified that what I recall of his previous offering. The soaring guitar lead sounds almost as if it was executed using an ebow. Ain’t nuthin’ c&w about that. Technical questions aside, it’s a catchy tune with a memorable melody, nice harmony work and some spirited drumming.

“Rail Me Down” features lots of earnestly strummed acoustic guitars, assertive bass and another catchy melody. “See You There” combined a contemplative character, wordless vocal harmonies and some lovely twelve-string guitar. “Don’t Go for the Money” rocks harder, with an infectious, swinging vibe. The production aesthetic is straightforward, and suits the song perfectly.

The midtempo “I Don’t Like You” employs some nicely Leslie’d electric guitar, a loping melody and some alluring chord changes. “I’m Still Here” has a gospel-by-way-of-The-Band character. With its gentle yet assertive picking, “Mystery Girl” evokes – intentionally or not – some of the best alternarock of the ‘80s. It may be the best cut on Idiomatic. “Fear What You Know” ups the distortion quotient, but adds a driving bass line and soaring harmony vocals to sweeten the recipe; it feels a bit like prime-era Posies or Greenberry Woods.

“Words” – not the Monkees tune – lifts its drum pattern from any number of Phil Spector productions. Its melody is warmly familiar, too. But the result somehow feels original and compelling. With some highly effective keyboard textures, it gives “Mystery Girl” a run for the honor of the album’s finest track. And the last track, “You’re Gone” is another winner, an impassioned rocker that distills all of the album’s virtues into a single song. As fine as Kibler’s 2012 album is, a decade-plus later he’s managed the feat of besting it with Idiomatic.