It seems indie rockers are finally taking some vocal lessons. Singer-songwriter Jeff Hanson sings with a lilt in his voice, a Celtic soprano that drifts away with the melodies in his songs. Admittedly, on his new self-titled album, he kinda sounds like a girl. But that’s okay, because his songs are incredible. With this album, he’s at the forefront of indie rock, pushing the envelope with amazingly skilled Beatles-esque pop-folk.

The album doesn’t scatter itself around. It has cohesive thematic elements, with brilliantly recorded double vocal tracks and simple piano-guitar arrangements. Hanson doesn’t overdo the instrumentation – there are no accordions or glockenspiels to be found here. Ironically, though, the album still seems like a masterpiece. He creates majesty from the simplest of acoustic guitars, plucking through a guitar riff on “Now We Know” with bittersweet abandon. Hanson is a simple man, but that doesn’t mean he is boring.

Hanson does, however, borrow abundantly from the indie landscape. Elliott Smith is recalled in “I Just Didn’t Believe You,” with A-minor scale sorrowfulness. Ben Folds is conjured up in “I Know Your Name,” a pop-piano song with a pop-piano wit. Luckily, Hanson still maintains a distinctive identity. His songs maintain a sense of ultimate good, instead of falling into the dreary adolescent abyss. He speaks of “something else to carry on” in “Let You Out,” a necessity in the doldrums of depression. There needs to be a smiling face in a room full of sad singers. At his best, Hanson should be smiling brightly.
[Matt Cappiello makes love like a panther.]